Insurer Groups Praise Texas Senate Passage of Asbestos Reform Legislation

April 29, 2005

Both the American Insurance Association and the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America recently issued statements lauding the Texas Senate for passing comprehensive asbestos and silica litigation reform legislation in the form of Senate Bill 15.

The AIA said the bill should preserve the rights of victims, while also protecting Texas businesses from the scourge of rampant lawsuit abuse.

PCI maintained that the measure would protect the right of people with asbestos- and silica-related impairment to obtain compensation in a fair and efficient manner through the Texas court system.

“Texas needs to get its civil justice system in this area back in balance and this legislation should help do that,” said Fred Bosse, AIA vice president, southwest region. “We need a system that quickly, fairly and efficiently compensates people who are truly sick from asbestos and silica illnesses, and one that also provides more certainty and stability for defendants and insurers.

“Asbestos claims are continuing to rise despite the fact that most workplace asbestos exposure ended in the early 1970s. This is because the vast majority of claims are being filed on behalf of people who are not sick from asbestos,” Bosse explained. “One of the key things this legislation does is to establish objective medical criteria for all pending and future asbestos claims. This requirement will go a long way toward weeding unimpaired claims out of the system.”

“Texas is taking an important step forward in achieving meaningful asbestos litigation reform,” said Joe Woods, assistant vice president and regional manager for PCI. “This bill provides the proper balance in the civil justice system. It will stop the abuses caused by mass screenings conducted by entrepreneurial law firms and screening companies that clog the courts with unimpaired claimants. In addition, it ends the abusive practice of consolidating cases, which brings together a large number of unimpaired individuals with a few truly sick asbestos claimants. This means cases will be tried as they should be—on an individual basis.”

According to PCI, SB 15 contains the following provisions:
— Establishes sound medical criteria for determining impairment caused by asbestos or silica, and thereby, removing the unimpaired claimants from litigation. Most importantly, it provides the most seriously ill—those suffering from mesothelioma or other malignancies caused by exposure to asbestos or silica—to receive expedited trials.
— Suspends and preserves the claims for those who are not sick now, but may develop an impairing condition sometime in the future.
— Establishes that each asbestos case must be tried on its own merits as an individual case, rather than being bundled together with many other cases.

The bill, which passed by a 30-0 vote with one senator absent, has been sent to the House.

“We strongly urge the House to give this measure prompt attention as the legislative session enters its final month,” AIA’s Bosse said. “Asbestos and silica litigation is dragging down the nation’s economy.”

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