Gov. Perdue Signs Bill Limiting Asbestos Lawsuits in Georgia

May 3, 2007

Only those who’ve become sick through exposure to asbestos would be able to sue companies that used the material, under a bill signed into law by Ga. Gov. Sonny Perdue.

The new law would require a person filing a claim in Georgia to demonstrate that they have some physical impairment from exposure to asbestos, which was widely used before the 1980s for insulation and fire proofing. Others who were exposed to asbestos wouldn’t be able to sue until they became ill, under the law.

The law would extend time limitations for filing such lawsuits. The law also applies to silica exposure. Exposure to asbestos is associated with various types of cancer.

A study from the RAND Corp., a nonprofit think tank, found that more than 730,000 asbestos lawsuits had been filed through 2002. At least 8,400 defendants have paid more than $70 billion, the study found.

Critics argue that asbestos exposure has spawned an avalanche of junk lawsuits that have bankrupted businesses. But others contend greedy corporations knowingly exposed workers to asbestos and that long-term health effects may take years to emerge.

“This would allow people that are truly sick to move to the front of the line,” the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. John Wiles, R-Marietta, said May 1.

Wiles said the law had the support of the state’s business community and the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association.

The law is similar to measures enacted in Ohio, Florida, Kansas, South Carolina and Texas.

This is Georgia’s second crack at reining in costly asbestos lawsuits.

In 2006, the state’s top court overturned a law that made it more difficult for people to file suit for asbestos-related ailments. The Georgia Supreme Court said that law applied retroactively to cases filed before it was passed in 2005.

On The Net: Senate Bill 182:

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