Written Testimony to Texas House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence - Subcommittee on Asbestos

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1 Written Testimony to Texas House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence - Subcommittee on Asbestos Interim Charge 4: Study the degree of transparency in asbestos bankruptcy trusts and how it affects litigation of asbestos exposure claims in Texas courts. Interim Charge 6: Study whether the asbestos and silica multidistrict litigation courts should be allowed to dismiss, without prejudice, claims on the court s inactive dockets for want of prosecution under certain circumstances. Submitted by David Slayton, Administrative Director, Office of Court Administration

2 The House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee s Subcommittee on Asbestos requested the Office of Court Administration (OCA) collect the following data regarding multidistrict litigation (MDL) cases involving asbestos-related injuries: the number of cases filed and disposed by year, the number of cases pending by year and the age of the cases at time of disposition. The subcommittee also requested information regarding the disposition status of asbestos cases that were referred back to their county of origin from 2008 to MDL asbestos cases are those cases that have been referred to a pre-trial judge by the MDL panel under Rule 13 of the Texas Rules of Judicial Administration for consolidated or coordinated pretrial proceedings. Judge Mark Davidson of Harris County was appointed by the MDL panel to serve as the pretrial judge in asbestosrelated injury cases. OCA does not maintain or collect case data specific to MDL cases, but because all MDL asbestos cases are referred to Judge Davidson in Harris County, OCA was able to obtain the requested data from Harris County. Summary of Cases Filed/Pending The following chart provides information regarding the asbestos cases referred to the MDL asbestos court from 2004 through Year New Filings Number of Plaintiffs on New Filings Designated MDL within Harris Co. 1 Disposed Transferred back to the County of Origin 2 Transferred back to Harris County Court of Origin These are cases that were originally filed as regular asbestos cases but later filed a notice to designate as an MDL case. 2 This is a subset of the total disposed number. 2

3 Pending Asbestos MDL Cases Observations: New filings peaked in 2005 and have declined steadily over the years. The number of cases disposed per year ranges from 64 to 97. The number of disposed cases that were referred back to the county of origin for final disposition varies by year. Note that the number of cases pending appears to increase by more than the number of new cases filed each year. This is because the MDL court sometimes severs the cases, which consist of multiple plaintiffs, into several distinct cases. When a case is severed, the filed date of the severed case is the date that the original case was filed, not the date that the case was severed. This process happens regularly and makes it impossible to calculate an accurate case disposition rate. Age of Disposed Cases The following chart provides information regarding the age of disposed asbestos cases by year over 36 months months months 6-12 months 3-6 months 0-3 months

4 Observations: Since 2004, 64 to 89 cases have been disposed of annually and the eight-year average is 81. In 2004, 98% of disposed cases were less than 12 months old. In 2011, 37% of disposed cases were less than 12 months old. In the last four years, an average of 370 new asbestos cases (new filings and cases designated as MDL within Harris County) have been added to the docket. At the average disposition rate of 81 cases per year, the docket will have approximately 280 additional cases added to its backlog annually. Age of Pending Cases The following chart provides the age of pending asbestos cases by year over 36 months months months 6-12 months 3-6 months 0-3 months Observations: In 2007, the number of cases over 36 months jumped from 262 to Though some of these cases are the result of new cases that were filed and had not been disposed of, because of the issue regarding the dating of severed cases, it cannot be determined with accuracy, how many of the cases that comprise this number are cases that were severed from another case. The number of cases over 36 months old has increased from 4% in 2004 to 92.5% in

5 Outcome of Cases Referred Back to County of Origin The Asbestos Subcommittee also asked OCA to research Disposition after remand the outcome of 30 cases that were remanded Judgment 11 (transferred) back to the county of origin, excluding Settled 2 Harris County, from 2008 through The pretrial Non-suit 4 court may order remand of a case or separable trial Dismissed 6 portions of a case when pretrial proceedings have been Pending 7 completed to such a degree that the purpose for the Remands 30 case to be transferred to the pretrial court has been fulfilled or no longer applies. Of the 30 cases that were remanded back to the county of origin, only seven appear to still be pending. The other cases either resulted in a judgment, were settled, dismissed or non-suited. 5

6 Summary Statistics of MDL Asbestos Cases 2004 through 2011 Number of Designated MDL Transferred back to Transferred back Year New Filings Plaintiffs on New Filings within Harris Co.* Disposed the County of Orgin** to Harris County Court of Orgin Pending * These are cases that were originally filed as regular Asbestos cases but lated filed a notice to designate as an MDL. ** This is a subset of the Disposed number. Age of Pending MDL Asbestos cases Year 0-3 months 3-6 months 6-12 months month18-36 months over 36 months Pending Age of Disposed MDL Asbestos Cases Year 0-3 months 3-6 months 6-12 months month18-36 months over 36 months Disposed

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