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  • Harty Jewell, PLLC

$30 Billion in Trust Funds . . . Really?

Updated: Mar 26

Asbestos bankruptcy trust funds

You may have seen the TV advertisements about there being $30 Billion in trust funds available for the compensation of mesothelioma victims, but is this accurate? Well, yes and no.

First, there is not a single 30 billion dollar asbestos trust fund. Instead, there are a number (60 or more) individual trusts that each hold different dollar amounts in trust for all asbestos victims, not just mesothelioma victims. And it is virtually impossible for any injured person to qualify for compensation from each and every one of these trust funds. So while the total cumulative amount of money held in all of the various asbestos trust funds might equal this $30 billion number, it is not really accurate to say, or imply, that any given asbestos victim has access to $30 billion in asbestos trust funds.

Second, trusts are created when a company decides to file for protection under section 524(g) of the federal bankruptcy code. In very basic terms, this section permits companies under some circumstances to become immune to court litigation but in exchange for this immunity, the company must set aside a certain amount of money in a trust fund to compensate asbestos victims.

The amount of money the company must set aside is determined as part of an estimation process in the bankruptcy court. Attorneys of current and future asbestos victims advocate for a certain amount of money to be set aside, while attorneys for the company advocate for another, typically lesser, amount of money to be set aside. The amounts are normally based on the amount of money the company historically agreed to pay, or was ordered to pay, in previous court cases, and the estimated number of current and future asbestos victims who may have been exposed to the company's products. Ultimately, the parties either reach an agreement on the amount to be paid into the trust fund, or the bankruptcy court decides on the amount. This agreement would include the "scheduled" amount of money to be paid to each asbestos claimant based on the type of asbestos-related disease the claimant has, and the total amount of money to be paid into the trust to cover the estimated number of future claimants. Historically, many of these estimations underestimated the number of future asbestos victims. As a result, the trust funds for many, if not most, of these companies were underfunded.

Once the money is paid into the trust fund, a group of trustees is appointed to manage the money in the trust. Because many of the trusts were underfunded from the start, the trustees of those trust funds were required to reduce the amount that may be paid to any given asbestos victim. As result, many trusts now pay only a fraction of the "scheduled" value that was originally specified.

So, while these $30 billion trust fund advertisements are technically accurate if you count every single asbestos trust that has been established, this full amount is not available to any given asbestos victim because nobody: (a) qualifies for a claim with every single trust, and (b) will necessarily be paid the full amount of the scheduled value for their disease from any given trust fund.

This is why it is so important for asbestos victims to retain an attorney to help them (a) navigate this system, (b) identify the trusts they actually qualify for, and (c) obtain the maximum amount they can from each individual trust. Asbestos victims who worked at sites in Virginia such as Newport News Shipyard, Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Norshipco, various Virginia Electric and Power Company (VEPCO) power plants, Allied Chemical, CSX and Norfolk and Western Railways, and other industrial sites may qualify for claims with certain asbestos trusts if they meet certain medical and exposure criteria.

The asbestos attorneys at Harty Jewell, PLLC have decades of experience navigating this system and obtaining compensation for asbestos victims. If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease like asbestosis, asbestos-induced lung cancer, or mesothelioma, call us. We can help.

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