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Funds won’t last forever – and when they’re gone, they’re gone!

That’s the gist of a recent Wall Street Journal article about the rise in claims against asbestos trust funds and increasing concern that fraudulent claimants will deplete resources meant for legitimate victims.

The Journal isn’t promoting claims against asbestos trusts, especially not fraudulent ones, but the alarm it raises does conjure up images of carnival barkers touting once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to see some sideshow novelty act. Still, the funds held by the trusts will run out – and sooner than they might have otherwise, thanks to bogus claims and lax oversight.

“With dozens of asbestos-related manufacturers forced into bankruptcy, a burgeoning swath of the legal action has shifted out of the courtroom and into a nebulous world of trusts that evaluate claims and authorize payouts with little outside scrutiny,” the Journal reports.

“By design, many are guided by teams of plaintiffs’ lawyers -- the very group that seeks money for clients and has earned billions of dollars in fees on payouts through the years,” the article emphasizes, noting “growing concern that the trusts will run out of money before America runs out of asbestos victims.”

The Journal reports that “judges across the country who handle asbestos cases involving still-viable companies have granted defense requests to subpoena bankruptcy trusts to sniff out potentially false and conflicting evidence. Many defendants believe such data could help expose fraudulent or inflated claims that could potentially save them hundreds of millions of dollars in jury verdicts.”

As an example of someone making conflicting claims in court and in trust fund applications, the Journal cites a client of Texas attorney and Madison County Court habitué Brent Coon.

Coon’s quoted in the article as saying: “What we try to do with our clients is get them what we can, where we can.”

The tactics of counsel like Coon need “outside scrutiny.”

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