Our mesothelioma lawyers know that attorneys who defend the companies responsible for asbestos exposure are constantly trying tactics to delay and otherwise impede justice in these cases.
One such move attempted recently has been successfully thwarted by senate judiciary in Louisiana. Granted, this is a small victory in that it doesn’t yet apply to all 50 states, but it may be looked upon by judges in other mesothelioma cases seeking some precedent.
Here’s what happened:
Lobbyists for companies who for years had manufactured products with asbestos, a toxic compound known to cause a rare and deadly cancer called mesothelioma, had pushed for passage of House Bill 477.
This bill would have forced mesothelioma patients who filed lawsuits against the companies that caused their illnesses to disclose all potential defendants during the discovery process. Similar legislative measures are currently being debated in both Oklahoma and Ohio.
At issue here is the relationship among the more than 60 asbestos bankruptcy trusts that have been established as a result of extensive asbestos litigation. These trusts were set up by companies that could not afford to pay the large number of people they had caused to become sick. So through Chapter 11 reorganizations, companies were allowed to continue running if they established trusts, which they would continue to pay into and which mesothelioma patients could claim compensation, without having to endure a trial.
For some patients, there are multiple companies that are deemed responsible for their illness, and they receive multiple payments.
The legislature was aiming to force mesothelioma patients to disclose all defendants for each claim, thereby not only decreasing the person’s chance of getting the full compensation he or she deserves (if there are multiple defendants, each one would argue a lesser percentage of fault), but also creating a lengthier process – something extremely detrimental to someone who may not have long to live.
HB477, which had passed unanimously in the Louisiana House, was struck down in the Senate by a 4-2 vote.
Supporters had said it would cut down on instances of fraud or abuse.
The real abuse, however, happened when these companies, out of extreme greed and disregard for the well-being of their workers and consumers, continued to manufacture products they knew were dangerous, in spite of continuous warnings from health organizations.
What’s more, the U.S. Government Accountability Office took pains last year to investigate the trust system amid allegations of fraud – and found none.
It’s believed there are roughly 90 companies in the U.S. that have filed for bankruptcy as a result of lawsuits stemming from asbestos exposure.
As of right now, there are approximately $37 billion in asbestos trusts. The biggest of those was formed by Halliburton, and is currently worth about $4 billion.
The Louisiana measure is the first of many. Lawmakers there say they intend to introduce another similar measure next year, while several other states are contemplating doing the same.
The Ferraro Law Firm provides comprehensive legal services regarding asbestos exposure and mesothelioma diagnosis. Call 1-800-275-3332 for a free and confidential consultation. Offices in Miami, Washington, D.C., and New York City.