Fla. Sends Asbestos Litigation Reform to Gov.

May 5, 2005

Florida took a decisive step forward in the fight against out-of-control asbestos lawsuits as the Legislature sent the Asbestos and Silica Compensation Act (HB 1019) to the governor on Thursday, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).

“The Florida Legislature, and in particular the bill sponsors Rep. Joe Pickens (R-Palatka) and Sen. Dan Webster (R-Orlando), put the needs of the truly sick ahead of truly greedy trial lawyers,” said William Stander, regional manager for PCI. “PCI is proud to have worked as part of a concerted team effort among business and insurance interests to support this good legislation.”

Gov. Jeb Bush (R) is expected to sign the legislation, which requires plaintiffs to meet specific medical criteria before they can pursue an asbestos or silica claim in the court system. Earlier this year Gov. Bush endorsed a broad agenda of comprehensive tort reform, and business and insurance interests responded by coming together as the Florida Civil Justice Institute and the Florida Coalition for Legal Reform. Top issues have included the repeal of joint and several liability, class action litigation, asbestos and silica litigation, product liability, premises liability, and third-party insurance bad faith.

“The asbestos litigation reform legislation is a major victory for those impaired by asbestos or silica and the Florida civil justice system,” said Stander. “The volume of asbestos cases in Florida as in many other states has clogged the court system and drained resources that would be available to aid truly impaired individuals. This is a very fair approach that will ensure those who are truly impaired receive just compensation. In addition, the right to bring suit is preserved by those who have been exposed to asbestos or silica, but are unimpaired. If and when they develop an asbestos-related or silica-related disease or injury, the person then may bring suit.”

Florida follows Georgia and Ohio as the first states to enact these asbestos litigation reforms. Texas is very close to passing similar legislation. Earlier this week, the Texas House Civil Practices Committee on a 9 – 0 vote approved an asbestos litigation reform bill that received unanimous support in the Senate. The full Texas House is expected to vote on Senate Bill 15 next week.

“While Congress is struggling to develop a comprehensive solution to the asbestos litigation crisis, states are stepping in to address the issue in a fair and effective manner,” said Ernie Csiszar, CEO and president of PCI.

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