The Federal Government's Cost of Asbestos Litigation

GGD-85-80: Published: Sep 19, 1985. Publicly Released: Sep 19, 1985.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO performed a study to determine: (1) the federal government's cost of processing asbestos-related cases; (2) the Department of Justice's cost of defending related tort claims filed against the government; and (3) the court awards and settlements paid in those cases.

GAO was not able to: (1) obtain the requested asbestos caseload and cost data over the last 10 years because the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and the Department of Justice only had data available for the last few fiscal years; (2) categorize asbestos caseload and cost data according to various activities and functions of the United States during historical periods; and (3) project future asbestos-related cases, tort claims, and costs over the next 10 years. However, GAO found that: (1) as of September 30, 1984, the records showed that the district courts had a total pending caseload of 8,995 and had expended approximately $10 million to process those cases; and (2) in 1983 and 1984, there were 1,785 and 2,744 cases with expenditures of $5.2 and $5.9 million, respectively, but the government had only paid monetary claims due to a court award or settlement in only one case. Justice officials estimated that the pending caseload by the end of fiscal year 1987 would total 11,603 cases, and tort claims against the government could total $25.4 billion.

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