Litigation over personal injuries and wrongful death claims alleged to have been attributable to asbestos exposure has endured over the past forty years. Millions of dollars have been paid out to plaintiffs, leading many companies with significant liabilities to file for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy trusts have thus been established for claimants to seek recovery from these entities. The question of how to handle lawsuits in which all remaining defendants are bankrupt has been recently addressed in Maryland.
The issue first came to light when the Baltimore City Circuit Court was sorting through the alleged backlog of asbestos personal injury claims. The Court realized that many of the cases marked “open” (and thereby contributing to the high number of open asbestos cases) were actually cases that were fully litigated but had not been fully dismissed and closed because one or more of the cases’ defendants was in bankruptcy. In order to reduce the number of cases appearing open and active on the asbestos docket, the Court created a new “Special Inactive Bankruptcy Docket.” This separate docket was created under the recently passed Md. Rule 16-306, specifically created in order to give the power to the Court to address this problem. The newly-created docket is meant to hold only those cases where claims against non-bankrupt entities are resolved, and only claims against defendants in bankruptcy remain. Since the creation of this docket, Plaintiffs’ firms have filed with the Court notices stating which cases are qualified to be placed on the bankruptcy docket, i.e., those cases in which claims against non-bankrupt defendants have been resolved.
Among the intended aims of this bankruptcy docket is for the Baltimore City Circuit Court to more accurately discern which among the thousands of pending asbestos cases truly remain active. The Court has implemented additional processes as well in its effort to reduce the backlog of asbestos cases.
At MacDonald Law Group, we handle a broad array of matters involving the defense of toxic tort and asbestos-related claims. Should you have any questions on toxic tort or asbestos-related topics, please contact us using the email or phone contacts found on our website at www.macdonaldlawgroup.com.