Asbestos Legislation Signed in Georgia; Bill Awaits Action in Texas, Florida

April 15, 2005

According to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), Georgia enacted meaningful asbestos/silica litigation reform this week as Gov. Sonny Perdue signed House Bill 416, which requires that plaintiffs meet specific medical criteria before they can pursue an asbestos or silica claim in the court system.

Georgia joins Ohio, which enacted a law in 2004, as the first two states to address abusive asbestos/silica litigation involving unimpaired victims. Similar legislation in Texas is currently before the Senate State Affairs Committee and is expected to be voted on during the next week. There is also legislation pending in Florida.

“The enactment of this legislation in Georgia is a major victory and will help to end the litigation abuse cycle,” said Robert Herlong, vice president and regional manager for the PCI. “Across the country, litigation costs in these cases drain resources that would be available to aid truly sick individuals by clogging the court system and bankrupting defendants. Under this new law, only the truly injured claimants will be eligible for compensation.”

The Georgia law contains the following elements:

· Civil action alleging an asbestos or silica claim can not be filed unless the person makes a clear showing that he or she suffers from a medical condition to which exposure to asbestos or silica was a substantial contributing factor.

· Medically accepted standards for differentiating between persons who are truly impaired and those who are not are established.

· The right to bring suit is preserved by those who have been exposed to asbestos or silica, but are unimpaired, until when and if they develop an asbestos-related or silica-related disease or injury.

· Claims relating to more than one exposed person cannot be joined for a single trial unless all parties agree. These provisions address a current practice that has been a significant problem in asbestos litigation—joining multiple unrelated plaintiffs who have claims against multiple unrelated defendants.

· Asbestos or silica claims may only be filed in the county where the plaintiff resides or the county in which the exposure to asbestos or silica occurred to eliminate abusive forum shopping.

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