Growth of Federal Claims, Court Cases, and Litigation Costs

HRD-88-53: Published: Apr 21, 1988. Publicly Released: May 20, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO provided the most current information on: (1) asbestos claims filed with the Department of Labor; and (2) the costs associated with processing claims and defending the government in court cases.

GAO found that: (1) asbestos claims under the Employees' Compensation Act (ECA) decreased from 1983 through 1986, with benefits paid totalling $13.2 million; (2) asbestos claims under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act increased from 1983 through 1987; (3) Labor could not determine the average claims processing time under the Longshore Act, but determined that the time under ECA was less than 1 year; (4) the costs for all ECA claims were between $46.1 and $52.3 million annually and, for Longshore Act claims, between $6.8 and $7.7 million annually; (5) Department of Justice records showed that pending asbestos cases increased from 1984 through 1987, but cases filed decreased; (6) for the 2,901 pending cases, there were 91,186 claimants with an estimated $13.6 billion in awards or claims at issue; (7) Justice expected pending cases to decrease to 2,416 by the end of 1989; (8) asbestos litigation defense costs increased from $5.9 million in 1984 to about $10.2 million in 1987; (9) the federal government paid monetary claims in only one asbestos-related case, totalling $5.75 million, to 445 persons in a civil suit, (10) Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts records showed that, in 1987, the courts received 21,067 cases but only closed 6,898, and pending cases increased from 5,885 to 20,738; and (11) court costs increased from $10.1 million in 1984 to $13.4 million in 1987.