During the early 1980s, thousands of asbestos lawsuits were filed in New Jersey. In 1981, there were 1,000 cases filed. By 1988, this number increased to almost 3,500. The most common reason these cases are filed is over mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma cases are still being filed because there are still asbestos exposures that have not been detected. Even slight exposure may lead to this fatal disease. In this video, Judge John Keefe, Sr. explains his history in helping shape mesothelioma and asbestos litigation.
In 1981 the asbestos litigation hit the state of New Jersey with vengeance. We had about 1,000 filings that year and increased from 1,000 to about 3,500 by the time I left for the appellate division in 1988. I was appointed to be the manager, essentially for the state of New Jersey with respect to getting cases ready for trial in Middlesex County and in other counties in the state. We had to formulate standard forms of interrogatories, standard practices for depositions and de bene esse depositions and promotion practice. The most prominent disease process now existing in the asbestos litigation is mesothelioma, which is a very special form of asbestos disease. There was a prediction when I was a trial judge that mesothelioma would be erased by 25 years from the time I was then on the bench and it has not. There is still a very large number of mesothelioma cases still being filed in the United States. The thing about mesothelioma is that it’s not a dose-related disease so although most of the asbestos has been erased from our environment, there are still exposures that haven’t been detected. So very slight exposure may cause mesothelioma. Depends upon the person.