The Toledo Blade reported that Ohio has the eighth-highest rate of asbestos-related deaths, and the Associated Press said the Buckeye State has one of the largest backlogs in the nation regarding cases involving lawsuits over work-related asbestos exposure. That backlog, involving thousands of Ohio residents dying of mesothelioma, is likely to grow if Governor John Kasich signs a bill that the state Senate passed on December 5, 2012.
Senate Bill 380 was supported by the US Chamber of Commerce and it will purportedly curb so-called “double-dipping” from asbestos victims supposedly filing duplicate lawsuits with multiple trusts. While the bill would preserve victims’ rights to sue when harmed by asbestos and does not cap damages, it would require workers to divulge all asbestos claims filed by them or on their behalf. In other words, the bill would just be one more way for defendant companies to further delay a day in court for victims who are running out of time.
If enacted, Ohio would become the first state in the country to impose such claims restrictions, but the AP noted that similar legislation has been introduced in Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia and in Congress. Supporters of these measures often claim that there is widespread abuse of asbestos trusts, despite the fact that a 2011 report from the independent, nonpartisan Government Accountability Office—also referred to as “the US taxpayers’ best friend” for its work in uncovering waste, fraud and abuse—said, “Of the trust officials that we interviewed that conducted audits, none indicated that these audits had identified cases of fraud.”
When proponents of bills like these are asked to identify examples of fraudulent claims, the one name that is continually cited is that of Harry Kananian, who died of mesothelioma in 2000. The problem with that case is that while lawyers for his estate filed multiple claims with conflicting information in effort to manipulate the system, the offenders were caught—thus illustrating that the system actually works to weed out the unjustified claims. To call the case a straw man argument is an insult to straw men.
Sadly, the bill passed by the Ohio Senate demonstrates that there remains significant financial support and misinformed views behind legislation that further delays justice for asbestos exposure victims. Individuals diagnosed with fatal diseases like mesothelioma are already short on time, and they are often facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses by the time they receive any award.
You can find more information about occupations with high risk for mesothelioma on our website, but it is important to act as soon as possible. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, fill out the form on this page or contact our firm right now at (800) 687-3333 to see how our Dallas litigation lawyers may be able to help.
Stanley Iola, LLP – Dallas litigation attorneys