AAI Urges NCOIL Members to Halt Abuse of Legal System for Asbestos Cases

February 24, 2003

The Alliance of American Insurers (AAI) has urged a gathering of the nation’s legislators to take steps to halt abuse of the legal system in asbestos cases.

Speaking to lawmakers convening at the Spring Meeting of the National Conference of Insurance Legislators, John Lobert, Alliance senior vice president of state government affairs, made the case for creating inactive court dockets and tightening up venue rules.

“Asbestos lawsuits have run out of control, bankrupting many companies and throwing thousands of U.S. employees out of work,” Lobert told the legislators. “Withholding payments to people who aren’t currently sick from asbestos and preventing over-eager plaintiffs’ attorneys from shopping for the most sympathetic jury will stem the growing tide of claims filed by non-impaired claimants, ensuring that money is available to pay the claims of those that need it most – the truly sick and injured.”

Currently, the Alliance is active in Texas, West Virginia and other states working for the passage of legislation that will reform the civil justice system by setting reasonable limits on the ability of nonresidents to bring suits in out-of-state courts and reportedly abolish meritless lawsuits.

“All we are asking state legislators to do is raise the bar for the criteria necessary to bring an asbestos personal injury lawsuit so that the truly injured may have their day in court,” Lobert continued. He explained that several states have become notorious as “magnet jurisdictions” for the filing of asbestos personal injury cases. “These states are infamous for their ‘broker-lawyers’ who solicit plaintiffs through advertising and questionable mass medical screenings and bring suit in jurisdictions with a history of large jury awards, no matter how tenuous the connection to that locale,” he said.

“In addition, the flood of new claims from people who aren’t sick from asbestos, and likely never will be, is costing billions of dollars, paid not just by insurers, but by the U.S. economy. Venue reform and the inactive docket concept are fair, balanced methods that will help put a stop to the meritless cases that are taking money away from the true victims of asbestos – the sick or dying,” Lobert added.

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