Wisconsin – The Wisconsin (WI) Assembly has passed measure on last Wednesday that critics say would adversely affect the lawsuits over asbestos exposure.
The bill would need claimants to disclose the number of businesses their lawyers plan to sue. The claimants should reveal any claims they’ve filed against trust funds of bankrupt businesses.
According to the Republicans who back the bill, such a measure would prevent attorneys from concealing multiple claims hoping for maximum awards. They say some claimants do not inform the courts they’re also seeking compensation from the trust funds of the bankrupt businesses and the judges do not have any way to assign the liability properly.
However, the opponents – including the trial lawyers – say the bill is intended to slow down the cases expecting the claimants will pass away and to protect businesses from making compensation payouts.
The bill, which passed on 58-39 vote, was proposed by Wisconsin Republican member Andre Jacque. Jacque said the measure would give more transparency to asbestos claims. It would help the jurors and the judges realize how many defendant companies might be liable for a person’s disease so that they can assign the damages fairly, Jacque said.
The bill will now move toward the Senate for approval.
According to opponents, the bill would extend trials for the victims of asbestos exposure.
Long used as an insulation and fireproofing material, asbestos can contribute several health problems and terminal diseases such as cancer. Several companies that made asbestos products have become bankrupt and established trust funds for compensating the victims. The victims have legal right to file lawsuits against the bankrupt businesses as well as the companies that are running still. The new bill would need claimants to disclose whether they’ve filed any claim against the trust funds. Once this has been done, their court trials couldn’t begin for 6 months.
Joan Claybrook, the Spokeswoman representing the Asbestos Cancer Victims Rights Campaign, said she was shocked to that the WI assembly passed such a bill which adds extra burdens for the seniors and veterans of the state who are dying from asbestos-related diseases. “Though asbestos diseases takes several decades to appear, they kill the victims usually within 18 months once appeared,” she said.
“The bill would allow asbestos firms to avoid responsibility as well as accountability at the cost of WI senior citizens and veterans. We honestly hope the Wisconsin Senate members will act appropriately to put an end to this dangerous legislation,” Claybrook said.