Monday’s Wall Street Journal ran a fantastic article about one man’s mesothelioma lawsuit. Here is a link to the article, which is probably behind a pay wall.

If you thought asbestos litigation was about over, then think again:

Dr. McQueen represents a new breed of plaintiff in the asbestos litigation complex, now four decades old but still a thriving, multibillion-dollar enterprise. Unlike the steelworkers and shipbuilders who worked with vast quantities of asbestos decades ago—and could easily single out likely corporate culprits—the latest round of mesothelioma sufferers tend to be more idiosyncratic.

**In 2011, roughly 2,250 mesothelioma lawsuits were filed in U.S. courts, a nearly 20% increase from five years prior, according to Navigant Consulting Inc., NCI +1.13% a Chicago-based consulting firm that analyzes asbestos litigation for corporate clients. The pace shows no sign of slowing down, according to other experts who track the suits, even though new mesothelioma diagnoses are actually on the wane.

There is big money to be made for law firms. Weitz & Luxenberg, with about 90 attorneys and 400 other employees, handles as many as 500 mesothelioma cases a year from its offices in New York, New Jersey, Delaware and California, according to co-founder Perry Weitz. The value of each case varies widely, he said, but on average is worth between $1 million and $10 million. Law firms typically charge a fee of between one-third and 40% of the payout. 

Mr. Weitz, who owns a 9½-bathroom mansion on 500 acres in Snowmass, Colo., said his firm sometimes sues 50 to 100 companies in a single asbestos lawsuit and settles 98% of the cases before they go to trial.

 Now days, Mississippi asbestos lawyers are being bypassed for these national firms. A few weeks ago someone from North Mississippi called me about an estate dispute issue. Her family was involved in a mesothelioma case.

But the family’s lawyers weren’t from Clarksdale, Tupelo or Jackson. They were from San Francisco.

This is yet another example of why the legal economy in Mississippi is in bad shape. Ten-twenty years ago there were a lot of lawyers in Mississippi making money in asbestos litigation. Now a lot of that work leaves the state.