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5/27/2021 By Megan Shockley

I had the pleasure of presenting with my colleague, Michelle Potter, earlier this month at the Cutting-Edge Issues in Asbestos Litigation Conference put on by Perrin Conferences. Michelle and I spoke along with Jennifer McGarrity from Maron Marvel Bradley Anderson & Tardy on the opening panel of the virtual event, which was aptly titled “Trends – A Look at the Who/What/Where of Asbestos Lawsuits.”

During our presentation, we took a deep dive into many of the trends analyzed in KCIC’s 2020 Asbestos Year in Review report. It’s always great to be able to talk through these reports in a forum setting to really explain what the data is showing, as well as the different variables going into each analysis.

At the end of our presentation, I was also able to go into what KCIC has seen in terms of asbestos filings so far in 2021. On average, the lag between when a lawsuit is filed and when it is received and processed by KCIC is about one month. Therefore, we took at look at 2021 filings for the first quarter, with data received through April 30. At that point, the number of Q1 2021 filings was 11% higher than the number of Q1 2020 filings received at this point last year and 6% lower than the same point in 2019. A comparison of cumulative Q1 filings by month for 2018 – 2021, with data as of April 30 each year, is shown below.

When looking at Q1 2021 filings by disease, there has, so far, been a continued increase in lung cancer filings, which saw a 29% increase compared to this time in 2020, and a 22% increase compared to this time in 2019. Lung cancer cases have seen the most dramatic percentage increases in St. Clair County, Illinois (+72%), St. Louis, Missouri (+74%), and Kanawha, West Virginia (+360%). At the same time, mesothelioma filings are seeing a decline – 5% lower than this time in 2020 and 17% lower than at this point in 2019. The decreases in mesothelioma filings are made up of smaller percentage decreases over the top jurisdictions. It is also notable that non-malignant filings so far are 59% higher than at this point last year, but still 32% lower than where they were at this point in 2019.

When looking at all filings received as of April 30, you are able to see where 2021 filings may end up for the year. Given the one-month average lag between when a case is filed and when it is received by KCIC, you might expect lawsuits received through April 30 to be about 25% of the total that will be filed in 2021.

With this metric, we are beyond or at 25% of total 2020 filings for every disease. Compared to 2019 total filings, 2021 so far is slightly under the 25% benchmark for all diseases except for lung cancer, which has already reached 32% of the 2019 total.

For all diseases, Q1 2021 is at 27% of total 2020 filings and 25% of total 2019 filings, so it looks as though 2021 may be shaping up to be closer to 2019 than 2020. KCIC will continue tracking and reporting on the progress of filings throughout the year, including doing a mid-year check this summer.