AAI Urges ABA to Adopt Recommendations for Asbestos Litigation

February 5, 2003

The Alliance of American Insurers (AAI) has urged the American Bar Association (ABA) to adopt a new medical standard regarding asbestos claims.

The ABA’s Commission on Asbestos Litigation will present its recommendation for a new standard to the House of Delegates at the ABA’s mid-year meeting Feb. 5-11 in Seattle. The Commission is recommending that the new standard be enacted by Congress as part of new legislation aimed at dealing with the asbestos litigation issue.

“The ABA’s commission has looked at this issue and determined that the standards being used to qualify an individual to be part of an asbestos lawsuit must be strengthened,” John Lobert, senior vice president of state government affairs for the Alliance, said.

“Without medical standards in place, enterprising lawyers have filed thousands and thousands of suits for non-impaired individuals. Attorneys use for-profit companies to conduct mass screenings at union halls and in hotel parking lots using questionable techniques, including the use of physicians who in some instances are not licensed in the state where the screenings are taking place and who do not even have a doctor-patient relationship with the claimants. All of this is done as part of a process that includes the claimants signing a retainer agreement with the lawyer or law firm conducting the screening.

“The ABA’s commission realized that these questionable diagnosis methods have resulted in a flood of new claims from people who aren’t sick from asbestos and likely never will be. These new cases are costing billions of dollars and taking money away from the true victims of asbestos, those who are sick or dying.”

The standards recommended by the Commission require a medical report and diagnosis signed by the diagnosing doctor that verifies:

1. That the doctor has taken a detailed occupational and exposure history from the claimant that details the claimant’s exposure to airborne asbestos fibers, as well as a detailed medical and smoking history;

2. That at least 15 years have elapsed since first exposure and the diagnosis;

3. That the claimant has a quality one X-ray read by a certified B reader with an ILO grade of 1/0 or higher, pleural thickening graded b2 or higher, or pathological asbestosis graded 1(B) or higher;

4. That the claimant has pulmonary impairment as shown by a PFT performed by AMA and ATS standards that meets certain minimums; and

5. That the medical findings and impairment were not probably the result of other causes.

The Standard also requires that the readings and PFT results must be attached to the complaint. The Standard also tolls the statute of limitations if the diagnosis does not meet the criteria, obviating the need for claimants to file prematurely just to protect their rights.

“The Alliance strongly supports this recommendation and urges the ABA’s delegates to ‘do the right thing’ by passing this recommendation, putting a stop to this abuse of our legal system,” Lobert added.

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