Texas Senate OK’s Bill to Lower Standard of Proof in Asbestos Lawsuits

April 21, 2009

Handing a rare victory to personal injury trial lawyers, the Texas Senate recently passed legislation that would make it easier for certain people to recover damages after being exposed to asbestos.

The bill, which passed 20-11 on a preliminary vote, would only apply to lawsuits involving mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer usually caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers.

The legislation, which faces more hurdles before becoming law, would set a lower standard of proof for demonstrating that asbestos exposure was significant enough to cause the cancer.

All of the Democrats in the chamber voted in favor of the legislation. But the debate dragged on for hours as Republicans, who rule the Senate 19-12, squabbled with each other over how much the bill might negatively impact businesses and whether trial lawyers deserved big contingency fees when they win asbestos cases.

“Trial lawyers chase big pots of money,” said Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston. “This is a big pot of money.”

The sponsor of the legislation, Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, said the bill would not “ruin the business climate in Texas,” and was designed to help a relatively small group of cancer victims.

He said sufferers of mesothelioma face huge delays and hassles trying to meet a relatively high standard of proof in asbestos lawsuits.

Without the legislation, Duncan said, “these people are gonna be dead by the time their case is finally resolved.”

The mesothelioma bill is SB1123

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