What Is a Mesothelioma Trust Fund?
When asbestos manufacturers file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, they create asbestos trust funds. These are sometimes referred to as “mesothelioma trust funds,” and they provide future compensation for mesothelioma victims and others injured by exposure to asbestos.
Key Facts About Mesothelioma Trust Funds:
- Money to compensate future claims is set aside in these trust funds created in bankruptcy court.
- Mesothelioma patients may be able to file claims with more than one trust fund.
- In addition to mesothelioma, trust funds may be available to help people with a variety of other asbestos-related diseases.
It’s important to find an experienced asbestos lawyer who is well versed in the asbestos trust fund claims process. A mesothelioma lawyer can help you gather evidence to prove that exposure from asbestos products was responsible for your cancer to help you document your eligibility to file a successful trust fund claim.
Who Is Eligible to File an Asbestos Trust Fund Claim?
Those exposed to asbestos who developed mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease generally are eligible to file a claim.
People eligible to submit a trust fund claim include workers exposed to asbestos by their employer, workers who used asbestos-containing products, household members exposed secondhand, people exposed environmentally and family members who lost a loved one from asbestos exposure.
Find an Asbestos Trust Fund
Find out which companies have a bankruptcy trust and the amount of money available.
List of Asbestos Trust Funds
Dozens of asbestos companies set up bankruptcy trust funds including Johns Manville, W.R. Grace and United States Gypsum. There are billions of dollars in these funds to compensate future asbestos victims.
The following chart shows some of the largest asbestos trusts available in the U.S. to mesothelioma patients and their families.
|Company||Estimate of Initial Assets||Year Established|
|United States Gypsum Trust||$3.9 billion||2006|
|Owens Corning Corporation Trust||$3.4 billion||2006|
|Pittsburgh Corning Corporation Trust||$3.4 billion||2011|
|W.R. Grace and Co. Trust||$2.9 billion||2001|
|DII Industries Trust||$2.5 billion||2005|
|Johns-Manville Corporation Trust||$2.5 billion||1988|
|Armstrong World Industries Trust||$2 billion||2006|
|Western Asbestos (Western MacArthur) Trust||$2 billion||2004|
|Babcock & Wilcox Trust||$1.8 billion||2006|
|Owens Corning Fibreboard Subfund Trust||$1.5 billion||2006|
Mesothelioma Trust Fund Payouts
Mesothelioma trust fund payouts range from $7,000 to $1.2 million, with a median value of $180,000.
Mesothelioma trust fund claims often pay six figures, according to a 2016 Mealey’s Asbestos Bankruptcy report. The amount of compensation a claimant can receive from an asbestos trust depends on several factors.
- The type of asbestos-related disease diagnosed.
- The payment schedule the trust initially established.
- The current payment percentage set for the trust.
Each asbestos trust assigns claim values to various types of asbestos-related diseases. This is called a “schedule.” The scheduled values are based on various factors such as how much compensation the company paid to asbestos claimants before filing for bankruptcy.
In addition to filing trust fund claims, mesothelioma claimants should consider more options for compensation, including asbestos lawsuits, Social Security Disability Insurance, personal insurance and veterans benefits.
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How Much Money Is Left in Asbestos Trust Funds?
There are approximately 60 active asbestos trust funds with an estimated $30 billion available for future claimants.
These trusts have paid claimants about $20 billion since the late 1980s. This figure includes an estimated $15 billion paid between 2006 and 2012, which is the most recent information available.
Given the long latency period of asbestos-related diseases, new claims are expected to emerge for several decades.
Trusts are established after rigorous estimation proceedings. These proceedings determine how much money should be set aside for current and future asbestos claims. Management procedures are established to ensure the funds last long enough to compensate future claimants.
To make sure enough money is available for future claims, claimants typically receive a percentage of what their claim is worth. This prevents funds from depleting too soon, but it also means that most victims get less than they might otherwise receive.
How Do Asbestos Trust Fund Payouts Work?
Asbestos trust funds offer a set payment percentage of a claim’s value to preserve money for future victims who will be diagnosed years from now.
Trust fund payment percentages may range between 1% and 100% of the entire value of a claim and vary based on how many people file a claim. For example, using the median value of $180,000 for mesothelioma claims, if the trust’s payment percentage is 25%, the payout would be $45,000. That compensation may be substantial enough to help cover medical bills and lost wages.
Filing an Asbestos Trust Fund Claim
There are several steps involved in filing a trust fund claim, including meeting the fund’s criteria and gathering evidence before filing the claim. A mesothelioma attorney will guide you through these steps to give you peace of mind and let you focus on your recovery.
Step 1: Meet Trust Fund Criteria
Each asbestos trust fund sets its own criteria that must be met to file a successful claim. The criteria are typically outlined on the trust fund’s website.
The criteria commonly include:
- When your asbestos exposure occurred
- Where the exposure took place
- Proof of an asbestos-related diagnosis
- Information or evidence about the asbestos products you were exposed to
- Statute of limitations for filing a claim
Step 2: Collect Evidence to Support Your Claim
You and your attorney will work together to gather evidence to support your claim.
Evidence required to file an asbestos trust claim usually includes:
- Patient’s Diagnosis: Medical documentation proving an asbestos-related diagnosis such as a pathology report and imaging scans.
- Physician Statement: A statement drafted by a qualified physician, such as a doctor or oncologist, confirming the diagnosis.
- Exposure Site: Evidence confirming asbestos exposure, which may include witness affidavits, employment records and invoices.
- Asbestos Involvement: Medical documentation describing the extent to which asbestos contributed to the claimant’s disease.
Step 3: Submitting Your Claim
Once your attorney has gathered evidence, they will submit it in accordance with the trust’s protocols. Most trusts accept claims submitted electronically through their websites, while others may require submission of a printed claim through the mail.
Your attorney will find the best method to submit your claim to ensure a smooth approval process.
Step 4: Claim Reviewed for Approval
There are generally two options to choose from when asking a trustee of a fund to review your claim, but make sure to inquire with the trust’s administrators or ask your attorney to explain the process.
The trust’s administrators will review the evidence in your claim. This is typically done in one of two ways:
- Expedited Review: Your claim will be grouped with other claims based on your diagnosis, which allows trust administrators to more quickly review the claims. A fixed payment amount is associated with an expedited review, and payment is typically received faster than an individual review.
- Individual Review: Your claim will be individually reviewed, which takes longer than an expedited review. More factors are considered through an individual review such as the extent of your disease and how many dependents you have. The payment amount could be higher or lower than the fixed amount associated with an expedited review.
Claimants diagnosed with terminal diseases, such as mesothelioma cancer, who need compensation fast may consider an extraordinary claim. An extraordinary claim is a good option for claimants who meet the criteria for an expedited review and whose exposure is the result of a single product or employer.
The settlement offered in this type of review may move to arbitration if the claimant is not satisfied with the settlement amount. If arbitration fails, claimants have a right to sue the trust.
An experienced mesothelioma attorney has the expertise to know which type of asbestos trust fund review is likely to result in a better outcome for your case.
Filing Limitations for a Mesothelioma Trust Fund Claim
Before filing a trust fund claim, it is essential to know all your legal options. A qualified mesothelioma lawyer can help you navigate through this process and determine if filing an asbestos trust fund claim is right for you.
- Statutes of Limitations: A trust fund claim must be filed within the statutes of limitations set by each trust. Each trust sets its own time limits for filing a claim, usually around two to three years after a mesothelioma diagnosis or death.
- State Laws: The federal government leaves it up to each state to form its own asbestos legislation. State laws dictate how trust compensation affects the determination of lawsuit awards.
- Setoffs: Often, if claimants have already received trust payments, defendants they sue may deduct the amount of that payment from a court award. Some states, including Illinois, New York, Texas and West Virginia, may permit setoffs for trust payments.
- Filing Multiple Claims and Lawsuits: In some cases, claimants can file asbestos trust claims and asbestos lawsuits at the same time. Various state laws require claimants to disclose information about other claims they may have filed in the past.
- Information Sharing: State courts have different rules about sharing trust claim information with lawsuit defendants. Some courts require disclosure of any claims submitted to trusts during the discovery phase of a lawsuit.
How Are Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts Created?
Mesothelioma trust funds are generally created through Chapter 11 bankruptcy courts and funded with enough money to compensate future claims, thereby allowing people with all types of asbestos-related diseases to file a claim with the trust fund instead of suing the company.
Mesothelioma patients may be able to file claims against one or more trusts. The process may require you to provide medical records, a physician statement and an asbestos exposure summary. An experienced asbestos lawyer can provide you with a list of asbestos bankruptcy trusts and help you navigate the trust fund process. These trust funds are available to help people with all types of asbestos-related diseases, but mesothelioma claims usually result in the highest compensation.
Some asbestos manufacturers that didn’t have enough financial standing to reorganize and establish a trust fund, instead filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation. Through the Chapter 7 liquidation process, a company sells off its assets and the courts distribute the money to claimants and others.
Companies Submit Plans to Bankruptcy Court
Companies that can’t afford to pay their asbestos liabilities and want to continue in business must submit detailed plans to the bankruptcy court for reorganization. These plans include the amount of money they will put into the trust to pay current and future asbestos claimants and creditors.
Asbestos Claims Estimates Are Established
The court holds estimation proceedings, which resemble court trials. In these proceedings, each interested group offers its own estimate of how much money should be put into the trust for asbestos claims. They support their estimates with how much the company paid in compensation for prior asbestos claims, and with testimony from experts, which include legal experts who are knowledgeable about the value of past asbestos lawsuit settlements.
Judge Considers Reorganization Plan
The bankruptcy judge weighs the evidence, including the estimates and expert testimony. The judge then determines how much money should be set aside for asbestos claims. It can take many years and multiple estimation proceedings for the court to grant approval. Once the plan is approved, the company transfers the money to a trust fund and a trustee is appointed to manage the trust.
Trustee Manages the Fund
An appointed trustee manages the trust and the claimant process to ensure enough funds are available to compensate future victims. Trustees must provide annual reports on the financial state of the trust.
How Asbestos Trust Fund Claims Compare to Other Mesothelioma Claims
Trust fund claims are a legal option for victims of asbestos exposure, but they differ from lawsuits and VA claims. Asbestos trust fund claims are procedurally different from filing a lawsuit in court, but they can still pay significant compensation to people injured by asbestos products.
Compensation from lawsuits comes through mesothelioma settlements or jury verdicts. Asbestos companies that successfully filed for bankruptcy reorganization and established trusts are protected from future asbestos lawsuits because claims are handled by the trust fund rather than by the reorganized company.
VA claims are technically not legal claims, but they offer compensation and health care to veterans of the U.S. armed forces and their families. A qualified attorney from a mesothelioma law firm can help you determine your legal options.
FACT Act and Asbestos Tort Reform
The federal government monitors asbestos trust funds and how they disburse money. One law that seeks to govern trust funds, known as the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act, has drawn criticism from plaintiffs’ lawyers and support from defendants’ lawyers.
The FACT Act would amend the bankruptcy code to make asbestos trust funds report their payouts. Those who oppose the act note it would put the personal information of claimants in a public database. The bill repeatedly stalled in the legislature in previous years. It remains stalled and no noteworthy actions have been taken since 2017.
DOJ Review of Trust Fund Claims
Since late 2018, the Department of Justice has increased scrutiny of asbestos trust funds, urging more accountability. The department has indicated trust funds lack adequate safeguards to prevent fraudulent claims and mismanagement.
In September 2018, the department filed an official Statement of Interest in the bankruptcy proceedings for Kaiser Gypsum Company. Shortly after, the department challenged the appointment of a trustee for the Duro Dyne company trust, claiming the attorney was too conflicted to represent the interests of future claimants.
“Asbestos victims should feel certain that they will receive compensation when they are promised, but fraudulent claims and mismanagement call that promise into question,” Jesse Panuccio, principal deputy associate attorney general at the DOJ, said in the Statement of Interest.
Common Questions About Asbestos Trust Funds
- Will I need an attorney to file a mesothelioma trust fund claim?
While trust funds do not require you to have legal representation to file a claim, it is often in your best interest to hire an experienced mesothelioma attorney. Asbestos lawyers are familiar with the nuances of how each trust fund works and how to maximize your compensation.
- What are the pros and cons of filing an asbestos trust fund claim versus a lawsuit?
The pros and cons depend on your individual case and whether you are eligible to file both types of claims. It is best to speak with a mesothelioma attorney to learn about the personal pros and cons that may affect whether you should file a mesothelioma lawsuit, trust fund claim or both.
- Is asbestos trust fund compensation taxable?
Compensation from asbestos trust funds is generally tax-free, but only a mesothelioma attorney or tax expert can confirm whether you may owe taxes to the state or federal government resulting from such compensation.
- How much is the average trust fund claim payout?
Each trust fund sets different payouts for asbestos-related diseases. While there is no average trust fund payout, it isn’t uncommon for mesothelioma patients to receive compensation totaling six figures after filing claims with multiple trust funds.
- Can a family member file an asbestos trust fund claim?
Yes, the estate of someone who has died from an asbestos-related disease can file claims, such as wrongful death claims, with asbestos trust funds. A mesothelioma attorney can provide guidance on how to file a successful claim.