Top Industry Report Shows 2021 Mesothelioma Lawsuit Plaintiff Trends

Courthouse where mesothelioma patients can file asbestos lawsuits.

KCIC, a consulting firm based in Washington, D.C., has released its annual report on asbestos litigation. It is called the Asbestos Litigation: KCIC Industry Report 2021. Each year the well-respected firm outlines trends in asbestos lawsuit filings. The firm reports on the number of lawsuits filed and the plaintiffs’ ages, occupations and sources of asbestos exposure.

In 2021, plaintiffs filed almost 1,800 mesothelioma lawsuits, a decrease over previous years. Non-malignant asbestos diseases saw the only notable increase in filings over 2020. KCIC also looked at the profiles of plaintiffs filing mesothelioma lawsuits.

Asbestos Filings Trends by Disease
Disease 2020 Filings 2021 Filings
Mesothelioma 1,873 1,793
Lung Cancer 1,507 1,491
Other Cancers 89 71
Non-Malignant Asbestos Diseases 192 269
Unknown 117 118

The report reveals that mesothelioma patients from a variety of backgrounds are continuing to file lawsuits to seek justice for their asbestos exposure.

Trends in Plaintiffs’ Ages in Mesothelioma Litigation

In 2021, the average age for mesothelioma plaintiffs was 74 years old. This only accounts for plaintiffs who included their age in their complaint. This is the same average age as the previous year. Mesothelioma has a long latency period. A person exposed at a young age may not develop mesothelioma until decades later. This latency period may contribute to the average age of mesothelioma plaintiffs.

The report also notes the oldest and youngest mesothelioma plaintiffs in 2021:

  • Oldest mesothelioma patient: 95 years old
  • Youngest mesothelioma patient: 28 years old

Because of the long latency period, younger patients are rare among asbestos disease patients. The 28-year-old plaintiff’s lawsuit alleged asbestos exposure from talcum powder. Talc can become contaminated with asbestos when mined. As a result, young children may have been exposed to asbestos from talc-based baby powders.

The KCIC report notes that talc exposure allegations in mesothelioma lawsuits is an emerging trend. It also found that talc exposure plaintiffs are younger than the average asbestos disease plaintiff. For 2021, the average age of plaintiffs with talc-based asbestos exposure was 67 years old.

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is alleged to have knowingly sold asbestos-contaminated talcum powder products. A number of plaintiffs who sued J&J have received damages and settlements from the company. J&J continues to face litigation alleging harm caused by their talc products.

Trends in Plaintiffs’ Jobsites in Asbestos Litigation

Many plaintiffs also included jobsite information in their 2021 asbestos complaints. The KCIC report notes certain trends in the types of jobsites where plaintiffs were allegedly exposed.

Among all asbestos filings, plaintiffs most commonly included military-related jobsites. Over a third of plaintiffs spent time in the Navy, Army, Air Force or other military branch.

In the United States, veterans are at high risk of asbestos exposure. Before the 1980s, the U.S. military commonly used asbestos in equipment and vehicles. Veterans currently account for around 30% of diagnosed mesothelioma cases in the country.

Other common jobsites noted in 2021 asbestos filings include:

  • Automotive industry (26% of plaintiffs)
  • Construction (16% of plaintiffs)
  • Oil/gas (16% of plaintiffs)

The above industries also commonly used asbestos before the 1980s. Individuals exposed decades ago may worry about their filing eligibility. However, victims may still be able to file a lawsuit against asbestos companies responsible for their exposure. The date of first exposure does not affect an asbestos plaintiff’s ability to file a lawsuit. States’ statutes of limitations determine the timeline for filing a mesothelioma lawsuit.

Oldest vs. Most Recent Dates of First Exposure to Asbestos in 2021 Asbestos Filings

  • Oldest dates of first exposure: 1950s
  • Types of jobsites: Asbestos production and mining
  • Most recent dates of first exposure: 1990s
  • Type of jobsites: Agricultural manufacturing and security and defense

Trends in Plaintiffs’ Types of Exposure in Asbestos Litigation

The KCIC report also looks at the type of exposure asbestos plaintiffs experienced. Plaintiffs can allege primary exposure, secondary exposure or a combination of the two. Primary exposure involves direct contact with an asbestos product. Secondary exposure involves contact with a person or object previously exposed to asbestos. A large majority of asbestos cases in 2021 alleged primary exposure. This is consistent with previous years.

In 2021, among asbestos plaintiffs who cited type of exposure in their complaint, KCIC reported:

  • Percentage alleging only primary exposure: 70%
  • Percentage alleging primary and secondary exposure: 28%
  • Percentage alleging only secondary exposure: 2%

The KCIC report also broke down the type of exposure by gender. It found that male plaintiffs were much more likely to allege only primary exposure. Female plaintiffs were more likely to allege combination exposure. In 2021, the percentage of men alleging only secondary exposure was negligible. The percentage of female patients alleging the same has been decreasing over the past few years.

The KCIC report is evidence of the continuing importance of asbestos litigation. Even decades after the asbestos regulations of the late 1970s and early 1980s, asbestos continues to affect the population. As a result, many mesothelioma patients are still seeking compensation for their asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma lawsuits continue to result in either settlements or damages for asbestos victims.