Asbestos Law Information

Clerks’ Office Burdens

To  a large degree, the paperwork  management problems of clerks’ offices have been described in an earlier report,318 A special

317.   Current estimates of judicial time required by various cases are derived from
S. Flanders, supra note 312. The 1979 time study preceded the creation of a separate
classification for asbestos cases in October 1984, so that there is no current measure
derived exclusively from judicial experience with asbestos litigation. On the assump­
tion that almost all asbestos cases were included as personal injury products liabil­
ity cases prior to October 1984, supported by the conclusion in this report that as­
bestos cases are comparable to other personal injury products liability cases (see the
discussion at notes 48 to 50 and tables 3 to 5), the case weight for that type of case,
1.5119, is used in this report.

The case weight of 1.5119 applies to personal injury products liability cases based on diversity of citizenship jurisdiction, which was the jurisdictional basis for 93.5 percent of all federal asbestos filings and 91.7 percent of the asbestos filings in the ten federal district courts in this study. In the study courts, 0.65 percent of the cases had aU.S.defendant as the basis asserted by plaintiff for jurisdiction and 8.65 per­cent were based on plaintiff assertions of federal question jurisdiction.

318.   T. Willging, supra note 4.

problem identified in several courts was the lack of ability to de­velop accessible and detailed information about the asbestos case­load to aid in the design of case management systems. Computer­ization of asbestos records facilitates clustering of cases from a data base of hundreds of cases.

Courts that have developed data bases of asbestos cases have done so by piecing together resources, especially computer exper­tise. Most courts did not develop a computer capacity until a back­log of hundreds or thousands of asbestos cases had accumulated. Construction of a data base from existing records required duplica-tive and laborious efforts. The experiences of clerks’ offices drama­tize the need for automated court records for civil cases, the devel­opment of which is in process.319

Many clerks’ offices have created specialized units to deal with asbestos filings. Until pretrial management systems such as master dockets and standard pleadings were developed, there were few economies of scale. Generally, additional personnel were needed to cope with the mountain of paperwork and flood of required notices.