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5/19/2022 By Jazmin Gelbart

A rise in asbestos-related lung cancer filings over recent years has not been consistent across all jurisdictions or plaintiff firms, indicating that certain factors are driving this change — specifically, particular jurisdictions and plaintiff firms.

The lung cancer docket is one of several trends and topics detailed in KCIC’s 2021 Asbestos Litigation Report. Released last month, the 27-page report reveals the latest data and our analysis based on a majority of filings through the end of 2021: lawsuits filed through December 31, 2021, and those received and processed by KCIC through January 31, 2022. The report includes an overview of asbestos litigation, breaking down filing statistics by disease, jurisdiction, plaintiff firm, and more.

Prior to our report being released, KCIC had the opportunity to present a preview of our findings in March during the Perrin Cutting-Edge Issues in Asbestos Litigation Conference. This conference was held in person for the first time since the start of the pandemic, and as a first-time attendee, I found it enlightening to experience participation from all sides of the litigation during each of the conference panels and events.

For example, the specific issue of lung cancer litigation was the topic of a panel discussion moderated by Rosie Badgett from Goldberg Segalla. The panel included Perry Browder from Simmons Hanly Conroy, Edward Casmere from Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila LLP, Bridget Longoria from Resolute Management, and Ben Schmickle from SWMW Law. Panelists discussed the possible effects of the increase in lung cancer filings on asbestos litigation strategies, outcomes, and the litigation as a whole. They had a variety of viewpoints and experiences to share, with some seeing the trend more than others. This served as an indication that just a handful of jurisdictions and plaintiff firms are contributing to the increase in lung cancer filings.

What the Numbers Reveal


In this post, I thought it would be interesting to look more closely at the lung cancer filing patterns detailed in our report. Additionally, I will further examine a few plaintiff firms that have driven the increase in filings.

When performing analysis for our report, KCIC found that lung cancer cases comprised 40% of total asbestos filings in 2020 and 2021, compared to 25% in 2017. The number of lung cancer filings has quickly been catching up to the mesothelioma filings. In 2021, the number of mesothelioma filings nationwide was only 20% higher than lung cancer filings (1,793 mesothelioma filings vs. 1,491 lung cancer filings), compared to 2017, when mesothelioma filings were double the number of lung cancer filings (2,212 mesothelioma filings vs. 1,107 lung cancer filings).

In 2021, St. Clair County, Illinois, was overwhelmingly the top jurisdiction for lung cancer cases, while Madison County, Illinois, was by far the top jurisdiction for total filings (all diseases). Cases in St. Clair made up 40% of all lung cancer filings in 2021, while making up only 17% of total asbestos filings. Digging a bit deeper into this — St. Clair has consistently been the top jurisdiction for lung cancer filings since 2017, and filings have continued to increase there every year (even in 2020, when overall filings were down almost 9%). From 2017 to 2021, St. Clair’s lung cancer filings tripled from 197 to 590. Over the last five years, lung cancer cases continued to make up 92% to 98% of all St. Clair filings.

Looking at the top firms filing lung cancer cases, I focused on three with significant increases between 2020 and 2021: The Gori Law Firm, SWMW Law, and Flint Law Firm[1]. The data considered is consistent with our report — with filings received by KCIC through January 31, 2022.

The Gori Law Firm

The Gori Law Firm was the top plaintiff firm for lung cancer filings in 2021, filing 25% of total lung cancer cases nationwide. In 2017, the firm’s mesothelioma filings were 31% higher than its lung cancer filings (331 mesothelioma filings vs. 252 lung cancer filings). Since then, the firm’s lung cancer filings have been on an upward trend while its mesothelioma filings[2] have been on a downward trend. In 2021, The Gori Law Firm’s lung cancer filings were 69% higher than its mesothelioma filings (378 lung cancer filings vs. 224 mesothelioma filings). This change in focus from mesothelioma to lung cancer is depicted in the graph below.

Interestingly, the majority (84%) of The Gori Law Firm’s lung cancer cases from 2017 to 2021 were filed in St. Clair, while the majority (91%) of its mesothelioma cases were filed in Madison. While the firm has continued to file cases in Madison, few of those have been lung cancer cases.

SWMW Law

SWMW Law followed a similar pattern. In 2017, its mesothelioma filings were greater than its lung cancer filings. Starting in 2018, the firm’s mesothelioma filings began declining while lung cancer filings increased. SWMW’s total mesothelioma and lung cancer filings by year are shown in the graph below.

More recently, SWMW started to focus on lung cancer filings in St. Clair. Between 2017 and 2019, the firm filed only nine total lung cancer cases there. During that time, the majority of its lung cancer filings were in St. Louis, Missouri, and Madison County. After 2019, SWMW’s St. Clair lung cancer filings increased to 31 in 2020, then 106 in 2021. In 2021 – while the firm has continued to file lung cancer cases in St. Louis and Madison County, its St. Clair filings were almost equivalent to the total filings in the other two jurisdictions combined. SWMW’s lung cancer filings in these three jurisdictions are shown in the graph below.

 

Flint Law Firm

In 2021, Flint Law Firm had a significant increase in lung cancer filings in St. Clair. From 2017 to 2020, the firm’s lung cancer and mesothelioma filings aligned closely year over year; the difference between the two never exceeded 12 filings, more or less. Then, in 2021, Flint’s lung cancer filings spiked by 420% and exceeded its mesothelioma filings by 282% (130 lung cancer filings vs. 34 mesothelioma filings). This jump in lung cancer filings occurred mostly in St. Clair with 102 (78%) of the firm’s 2021 lung cancer cases filed there. Meanwhile, only two of the firm’s 34 total 2021 mesothelioma cases were filed in St. Clair (while 23 were filed in Madison County). Flint Law Firm’s mesothelioma and lung cancer filings by year are shown in the graph below.

Conclusion

After examining these three plaintiff firms, we see two main commonalities. First, each of the firms had historically filed more mesothelioma cases than lung cancer cases (or the filing counts for the two diseases were very close). Second, their increases in lung cancer filings have been mostly in St. Clair County while they have all continued to file very few mesothelioma lawsuits in this jurisdiction. KCIC will continue to follow these developments to see if other plaintiff firms follow suit.

 

[1] Flint Law Firm has since merged with Raefan Group and become FlintCooper, however for the purposes of the analysis of 2021 data and earlier we have preserved the firm’s previous name from when they filed the cases.

[2] Mesothelioma cases considered include only traditional asbestos complaints and do not include mesothelioma cases filed with only cosmetic talc exposures.

Jazmin Gelbart

Jazmin Gelbart