Unfortunately, several other asbestos companies – Eagle Picher, UNARCO, Amatex, H.K. Porter, Carey Canada, Celotex, and Raybestos Manhattan/Raymark – followed Johns-Manville’s lead into the bankruptcy courts. Within a few years, the entire asbestos textile industry was in bankruptcy, as were several major asbestos insulation manufacturers.
Then a second wave appeared, of workers who were injured by exposure at sites where the asbestos-containing products were installed. Asbestos litigation diversified as these injured workers filed suit based on their exposure at shipyards (especially during WWII), refineries, railroads and power plants.
This was followed by a third wave of workers injured by asbestos exposure in the construction industry. They were exposed to different products – such as fireproofing sprays, drywall products, textures, and other asbestos-containing construction materials.
Thus, at the same time that manufacturers filed for bankruptcy, new defendants were brought into the litigation. These new defendants often included contractors, distributors, and the owners of premises like refineries and power plants.
They also included manufacturers of other types of asbestos-containing products. For example, in 1985, a former Kazan Law principal obtained a significant victory against Johns-Manville’s co-conspirator, Raybestos Manhattan: a $2 million verdict was won on behalf of an 81 year old retired brake mechanic who was dying of mesothelioma. This was the first verdict against an asbestos brake lining manufacturer.
The bankruptcies and other changes did not halt litigation on behalf of victims of asbestos-related disease, but they did make it much more complex and diverse, and the litigation was pushed in two somewhat divergent directions.
On the one hand, some plaintiffs’ counsel tended to take on large volumes of cases, including many clients who were not necessarily sick from asbestos, but who had medical evidence that they had been exposed. Some of these offices undertook large-scale medical screening programs using mobile x-ray vans – a number of which have been criticized as fraudulent and are now the subject of litigation. As a result, some workers settled their cases for relatively small sums and were not fully compensated when they were later diagnosed with more serious asbestos diseases, like mesothelioma.
On the other hand, a few plaintiffs’ firms began to limit their representation to a smaller number of seriously ill workers. By the mid-1980s, Kazan Law had decided to file cases only on behalf of workers with serious asbestos-caused disabilities, particularly workers diagnosed with mesothelioma.