The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America says that the Michigan Legislature is considering litigation reform regarding asbestos claims.
According to Chicago-based PCI, Michigan has looked at the efforts of other states such as Georgia, Florida and Texas that have worked to cut down on frivolous asbestos lawsuits and tried to prevent companies that did not produce asbestos from being sued into bankruptcy. With an eye to other states’ actions, the Michigan House and Senate held hearings this week on the issue. Senate Bill 1123 received a second hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and House Bill 5851 had its first hearing before the House Tort Reform Committee.
Both bills establish reasonable medical standards for asbestos and silicosis claims necessary to verify these illnesses; they place no additional burden on mesothelioma victims and suspend the statute of limitations, preserving the right of claimants to sue should they become ill.
This bill also allows each asbestos case to be tried on its own merits, not as part of a “bundle” of claims that may include a few truly sick claimants and dozens of unimpaired claimants.
The number of new asbestos lawsuits filed has increased dramatically, PCI says. Since 1988, more lawsuits alleging asbestos related disease have filled state courts. In Texas, it is estimated that up to 90 percent of the cases are filed by people who are not impaired.
“This situation drains resources that would be available to individuals who are truly sick, clogs the courts and can bankrupt defendants,” said David Golden, director of commercial lines for PCI.
“We are seeing substantial movement in legislatures around the country,” said Golden. “This week alone, there is a bill moving out of committee in Tennessee. There was a hearing in Missouri and the committee chair determined that a subcommittee be formed to come up with a bill to push at the beginning of next session. A bill passed both houses of the Kansas Legislature, but needs to go to conference committee to decide its fate. There is additional legislation pending in Louisiana, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.”
“These bills provide a fair and reasonable approach to asbestos litigation,” said Golden. “They prioritize the ability of people who are actually sick from asbestos exposure to seek compensation; while preserving the rights of other workers should they eventually become sick from asbestos or silica exposure.”
PCI identifies itself as a national trade association that is composed of more than 1,000 member companies, representing the broadest cross-section of insurers of any national trade association. PCI members write over $184 billion in annual premium, 40.7 percent of the nation’s property/casualty insurance.
Source: Property Casualty Insurers Association of America
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