Following the passage of Ohio’s new “asbestos transparency” law late last year, another state is now mulling the same.
Our mesothelioma attorneys understand House Bill 529 in the Mississippi House of Representatives would require asbestos plaintiffs to disclose all involvement with asbestos trusts.
Specifically, the measure would mandate asbestos trust claimants to submit a sworn statement disclosing all asbestos trust claims made either by him or on his behalf. Additionally, the claimant would have to turn over all information related to that claim at least a month before the discovery phase of the case gets underway. In instances where such claims were made after the suit was filed, the claimant would have a month to let the defense know of that as well.
If the asbestos defendants find any issues (as they most certainly are apt to do), they would have 2.5 months before the beginning of a mesothelioma trial to request a stay in the case, provided they can show credible evidence.
What’s more, if a person files a claim to access funds in an asbestos trust after he or she has obtained a court judgment, the court can later decide to re-open that case in order to adjust the judgment amount.
If its passed, it would apply to all asbestos-related claims filed after the 1st of July of this year, and also to any pending cases for which the trial hasn’t yet started.
The reason all of this is so troubling is that many times in mesothelioma cases, there are multiple defendants, with each likely to have contributed to the fatal illness incurred by the plaintiff. These individuals have two ways of seeking relief: Either by filing a lawsuit or by making a claim to an asbestos trust. In cases where there are multiple causes of exposure, these two remedies may not be mutually exclusive. But legal reform like this is not, as backers suggest, a way to provide “transparency.” Rather, it is one more way in which defendants can deny culpability or the extent of their liability. All it does is make the process more complicated and time-consuming for plaintiffs – who already are on borrowed time, as mesothelioma, once diagnosed, is aggressive and rapid in its progression.
Asbestos trusts were founded as a way for mesothelioma sufferers to obtain relief from companies that had filed for bankruptcy protection. The courts determined that these firms should not be allowed to simply walk away from the obligation to provide compensation to those harmed.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates that as of 2011, there were roughly 100 companies that had declared bankruptcy at least in some part due to asbestos liability claims. The overall number of asbestos defendants is estimated to be about 8,500, according to RAND Corporation researchers.
Contrary to the characterization provided by asbestos defendants, these trusts are not being bled dry. Current trusts are estimated to control nearly $40 billion in assets, and those figures continue to rise.
These actions are likely to prompt other states to do the same, meaning it is all the more critical for mesothelioma sufferers and their loved ones to carefully choose a law firm with a successful history of mesothelioma litigation on behalf of victims and their families.
Help for mesothelioma victims can be found at The Ferraro Law Firm. Offices in Miami, Washington, D.C., and New York City.