La. Lawmakers to Address Asbestos Reform Bills

April 9, 2003

A number of asbestos litigation reform bills were filed in both the Louisiana House and Senate for the session that began March 31, according to the Alliance of American Insurers (AAI), which has been active in developing and promoting some of the bills.

“The Alliance has been working with other insurers and the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry on the critical issues of civil justice reform generally and asbestos litigation reform specifically,” said Joe Woods, Alliance Southwest Regional Manager.
“Our efforts have produced draft legislation that implements an inactive court docket based on objective medical criteria and venue reform. That legislation has now been introduced for action during the 2003 legislative session that began this week and runs through June 23.”

The House bill, HB 1401, was introduced by Rep. Ronnie Johns (R), while the Senate bill, SB 853, was introduced by Sen. Noble Ellington (D).

According to John Lobert, senior vice president of state government affairs for the Alliance, the medical criteria would mandate that chest x-rays—read by a certified B-reader—show opacities of ILO grade 1/1 or greater or bilateral pleural encasement of ILO grade B2 or higher. Pulmonary function tests must show forced vital capacity equal to or less than 70 percent of predicted or total lung capacity equal to or greater than the predicted lower limit of normal. If these criteria aren’t met, the claimant would be placed on an inactive court docket until such time as the requisite level of impairment is shown. Meanwhile, the statute of limitations is tolled.

The bill also limits the ability of non-Louisiana residents to bring asbestos suits in the state’s courts.

“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 these bills would put a stop to these meritless cases that are taking money away from the true victims of asbestos—those who are sick or dying.”

Woods noted that leadership of both legislative chambers has indicated support for the bills, and the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry—the state’s chamber of commerce—will actively support passage of the measures.

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