AIA Says Landmark Tort/Asbestos Reform Bill Strikes Blow for Hardworking Ohioans

May 6, 2003

Real Ohioans whose lives have reportedly been turned upside down by a tort system run amok will be the most important beneficiaries of a sweeping litigation reform bill introduced last week in the Ohio Senate. The American Insurance Association (AIA) praised the proposal as a significant step in returning common sense to Ohio courtrooms.

Senate Bill 80, sponsored by Sen. Steve Stivers (R), contains caps on non-economic and punitive damages, limits on attorney fees and a 10-year statute of repose for products and construction defects. The bill also contains significant asbestos litigation reform provisions including a requirement that plaintiffs who file asbestos lawsuits must actually be sick.

“Hardworking Ohioans have lost their jobs, their pensions, and the ability to provide for their families at the hands of a bloated, out-of-control tort system,” said Paul Blume, Jr., AIA vice-president, Midwest region. “Ohio needs to put an end to the notion that the tort system is a giant lottery jackpot for which only trial lawyers and a handful of their clients hold the winning tickets. SB 80 will bring some much-needed common sense back to the Ohio courts.”

Asbestos litigation has already reportedly bankrupted nearly 70 companies countrywide, including the Owens Corning Corporation of Toledo, the world’s largest manufacturer of fiberglass insulation. Owens Corning filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Oct. 5, 2000, in response to a growing mountain of asbestos liability claims.

The company was forced to lay off 275 workers from its Granville plant in Licking County, Ohio. According to modeling done by NERA Economic Consulting, the economic impact of those layoffs will be felt by far more Ohioans than those who lost their jobs at Owens Corning. NERA estimates that overall, 500 jobs will ultimately be lost in Licking County as a result of the layoffs, with total output reduced by over $60 million annually. Approximately 50 percent of the displaced workers will relocate out of the county, leading to a total reduction in regional income of about $15-20 million.

“Ohio is home to tens of thousands of asbestos lawsuits filed by people who aren’t the least bit sick. Meanwhile, people who suffer from asbestos-related cancer, mesothelioma and other diseases can’t pay their medical bills because they have to wait in line,” added Blume. “This is not a tort system that works for the people it is designed to help, and it needs to be fixed. SB 80 does just that, and we urge Ohio lawmakers to stand up for the health – economic and physical – of regular people all over the state.”

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