A contentious measure dealing with asbestos claims has passed the Missouri House.
The bill from Republican Representative Bruce Degroot of Chesterfield would require plaintiffs claiming damages to disclose all trust claims they’ve made so that juries would be fully informed before awarding damages.
Currently, juries award money from a solvent defendant, but the plaintiff can then seek and receive further compensation from a trust fund for the same harm.
Degroot says the measure would keep plaintiffs from abusing the system by double-dipping on their claims.
Opponents, including many Democrats, say plaintiffs should be allowed to obtain full compensation for damages from both solvent defendants and asbestos trusts composed of bankrupt firms.
Critics of the measure, which also include asbestos victims, claim its provisions allow asbestos manufacturers to delay settlements in court. They say it also requires plaintiffs to file certain claims through trusts composed of healthy companies that have filed bankruptcy to lessen their costs.
Among the most well-known manufacturers of asbestos are Johns-Manville Corporation and Owens Corning. Lawsuits over the substance started in the 1920s and peaked in the 1980s and 1990s.
The Rand Corporation claims asbestos litigation is the longest-running mass wrongdoing litigation in U.S. history. Asbestos has been classified as a substance that causes cancer by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
A number of veteran’s organizations support the current legislation. The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance claims as many as 30% of all Americans with mesothelioma cancer are veterans who were exposed while on active duty.
The House bill briefly stalled in committee before reaching the chamber floor. It’s part of an overall effort by Republicans to limit lawsuits against businesses, which they say would improve the economic climate in Missouri. The asbestos legislation is one of numerous GOP backed bills in the legislature aimed at curbing wrongdoing lawsuits, an effort they refer to as “tort reform”.
The measure passed the House by a 96-48 margin and now heads to the Senate.