An asbestos litigation reform bill supported by the Alliance of American Insurers and a broad coalition of businesses and insurers has been introduced in the Texas Senate.
The bill, SB 496, will “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,” John Lobert, Alliance senior vice president of state government affairs, said. “We support this bill and will do our utmost to see it enacted.”
Lobert explained that Texas is a notorious “magnet jurisdiction” for the filing of asbestos personal injury cases. “While the legislature previously amended the state’s venue law to restrict the filing of cases by non-residents and took steps to prevent venue shopping within the state, much still needs to be done to stem the growing tide of claims filed by non-impaired claimants,” he said. “The state is infamous for its broker-lawyers who solicit plaintiffs through advertising and questionable mass medical screenings.”
According to Lobert, SB 496:
·Establishes medical criteria for asbestos claims. Chest x-rays – read by a certified B-reader – must show opacities of ILO grade 1/1 or greater or bilateral pleural encasement of ILO grade C2 or higher. Pulmonary function tests much show forced vital capacity equal to or less than 70 percent of predicted or total lung capacity of less than 70 percent of predicted;
·If these criteria aren’t met, puts the claimant on an inactive court docket until such time as the requisite level of impairment is shown. Meanwhile, the statute of limitations is tolled;
·Prohibits the filing of asbestos claims on behalf of a group or class;
·Amends the current Texas law regarding foreign corporations by adding a provision that the laws of the jurisdiction of incorporation of a foreign corporation licensed in Texas apply to any successor liability of the foreign corporation.
“These changes are particularly important because questionable diagnosis methods have resulted in a flood of new claims costing billions of dollars from people who aren’t sick from asbestos and likely never will be,” Lobert said. “The changes included in SB 496 will put a stop to these meritless cases that are taking money away from the true victims of asbestos – those who are sick or dying.”
The Texas Asbestos Consumers Coalition, of which the Alliance is a member, and the Texas Civil Justice League have been working for some time to create an atmosphere conducive to change in the state.
“A more business-minded legislature coupled with a governor interested in civil justice reform improves the odds that substantive progress will be made this year. The introduction and eventual passage of SB 496 is, we hope, just the start,” Lobert added.
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