AIA: Passage of Texas Asbestos Reform Bill Scores a Significant Win

May 11, 2005

The Texas House of Representatives passed comprehensive asbestos and silica litigation reform legislation in Senate Bill 15 that will preserve the rights of victims, while also protecting Texas businesses from widespread lawsuit abuse, according to the American Insurance Association.

“This measure will quickly, fairly and efficiently compensate people who are truly sick from asbestos and silica illnesses, and also provide more certainty and stability for defendants and insurers,” said John Marlow, AIA assistant vice president, southwest region.

The bill now returns to the Senate, which is expected to concur with a House technical amendment. Following that action, the bill will be sent to Gov. Rick Perry who called for this reform in January during his state-of-the-state address. The governor is expected to sign the measure.

Significant features of the legislation include: establishing medical criteria for all pending and future asbestos claims; providing that all pending asbestos claims that have not been scheduled for trial within 90 days after the effective date (except for cancer cases) are subject to the state’s multi-district litigation court process, which will efficiently separate impaired and unimpaired cases and expedite cases involving truly impaired claimants (this is tantamount to establishing an inactive docket); requiring that each asbestos case be tried on its own merits, not as part of a “bundle” of claims; and shutting down the “mass screening” of potential asbestos and silica claimants.

“While the bill was modified somewhat during the legislative process in response to objections from opponents, it still represents a substantial improvement over the state’s current asbestos and silica litigation situation,” Marlow said.

“Texas joins Florida, Georgia and Ohio in passing solid legislation during the past year establishing medical criteria and inactive dockets, which will go a long way toward weeding out unimpaired cases from the litigation systems in these states. Taken together, these actions represent a positive trend for asbestos and silica litigation reform at the state level,” Marlow concluded.

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