Asbestos and Silica Liability Bills Pass Ohio Legislature

May 26, 2004

Legislation limiting asbestos and silica lawsuits passed the full House this week and now moves to Gov. Bob Taft’s desk for his signature. House Bill 292 and HB 342 would make Ohio the first state to adopt medical criteria for filing asbestos and silica lawsuits.

“Both bills aim to help the most severely sick workers by removing barriers that could potentially prohibit them from receiving fair legal and financial remedies,” said Greg LaCost, senior counsel and regional manager of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), one proponent of the measure. “It allows ill people who are genuinely injured by asbestos and silica exposures to get fair and timely compensation.”

The asbestos and silica medical criteria measures place limits on lawsuits, requiring a plaintiff to provide medical evidence to prove that exposure to asbestos or silica was a substantial factor in causing his or her illness.

“Ohio workers with proven medical problems from asbestos or silica exposures will be the first to file court claims, if these measures are signed into law,” LaCost said, “while those exposed to asbestos or silica, but not yet showing symptoms, will have to wait. PCI urges Gov. Taft to sign the measures and set a positive example for other states to follow.

“PCI also congratulates the Ohio legislature and others in Ohio who worked so diligently to make this happen. The bills will help those truly injured to find the help that they need without the bureaucratic red tape found in portions of civil justice system.”

Unimpaired claimants are clogging the system and, in some cases, potentially prohibiting the truly sick claimant with a severe asbestos-related illness from receiving equitable legal and financial remedies, said John Lobert, PCI senior vice president of state legislative affairs.

“If nothing is done to curtail the flurry of asbestos litigation, the truly ill claimant will continue to receive less than he or she deserves,” Lobert said. “Endless jury awards and no-holds-barred litigation must end, and meaningful reform must be enacted by state legislatures and Congress.”

Silica-related claims and lawsuits have been steadily increasing, but will probably never reach the level of immense asbestos litigation and its impact on business and insurers, according to PCI. Silicosis is the oldest known occupation disease, a respiratory disorder caused by inhaling silica particles from quartz found in rocks and sand. Silica is a component used in glass-making and sand-blasting industries.

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