Ohio governor John Kasich is expected to sign a controversial bill that would require plaintiffs in asbestos lawsuits to cite all other entities they have sued, including any bankruptcy trusts, and set forth the evidence used in those other lawsuits. Since manufacturers of asbestos-related products often seek bankruptcy court protection and create trusts to protect assets from plaintiffs, critics argue that the bill would make it more difficult for mesothelioma victims to sue the companies that make asbestos products or exposed them to the cancer-causing fibers.
The bill gives many people cause for concern since a defendant in an asbestos lawsuit could ask a judge to delay the start of a trial if it has reason to believe the plaintiff has withheld information on another lawsuit or failed to sue someone he should have. Moreover, the information about other lawsuits could affect decisions by judges and juries as they consider liability for a victim’s illness as well as the monetary award attached to that liability.
According to an article in the Toledo Blade, Ohio would be the first state to enact such legislation, but this is not the first time that Ohio has passed legislation limiting the ability of plaintiffs to pursue asbestos claims. In 2004, Ohio passed a law that required plaintiffs in asbestos-related lawsuits to demonstrate that they’ve suffered substantial impairment of their health, with an X-ray showing simple changes to their lungs no longer sufficient. The passage of that law resulted in the dismissal of approximately 30,000 out of 40,000 asbestos cases pending in Ohio courts at that time.
Asbestos, a naturally-occurring silicate mineral that is used to make insulation, can be incredibly dangerous. The inhalation of asbestos fibers can lead to lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis (a type of lung disease), as well as other health problems. Asbestos litigation is a toxic tort, in which a personal injury case may be filed against a company alleging that the company knowingly exposed the public or its employees to a harmful substance that caused health problems or even death.
Asbestos-related mesothelioma lawsuits make up one of the longest, most expensive mass torts in U.S. history, with more than 730,000 claimants and 8,400 defendants as of 2002, according to RAND Corporation. Limitations on existing trust funds and new bankruptcy filings have caused plaintiffs to target smaller peripheral defendants. The rates of dismissed lawsuits and resolved claims decreased in 2011, which is likely due to tort reforms, such as Ohio’s new law, and increased scrutiny on lawsuits involving non-malignant medical conditions.
If you or someone you love has been exposed to asbestos, do not hesitate to contact the knowledgeable Chicago asbestos litigation attorneys at Ankin Law Offices, LLC will explain to you your legal rights and help determine your legal remedies following asbestos exposure.