Bringing transparency & fairness to asbestos litigation
A House committee heard a bill on Feb. 4 that would stop trial lawyers from “double-dipping” in asbestos lawsuits.
There is concern that trial lawyers are depleting asbestos trust resources — and also going after companies that are increasingly peripheral to the allegations of asbestos exposure.
House Bill 2139, sponsored by Rep. David Gregory (R-St. Louis), would allow for the fair allocation of fault and ensure plaintiffs receive fair compensation for their injuries, while not letting trial attorneys pursue multiple avenues of recovery.
“You can file a lawsuit against a solvent company or a company with money; or you can file a claim with the trust. You can do both. Unfortunately, these two different ways or systems of compensation don’t communicate very well,” said Gregory, a 2019 Missouri Chamber Business Champion. “And by that I mean you can literally file a lawsuit against a solvent defendant, tell one story saying ‘this is the only defendant liable for this asbestos problem’ — and then turn around after you’ve received a verdict and go to different trusts saying the same thing, that those trusts were 100 percent of the problem.”
This much-needed transparency and fairness fix will also prevent the draining of limited trust fund resources so that future claimants will still be able to receive compensation.
Mark Behrens, a lawyer with Shook, Hardy & Bacon, testified in support at the bill’s House committee hearing.
“Sick people will get paid much faster than they do today. They will get trust claims paid much more quickly than they do today and the tort cases will proceed more efficiently than they do today,” said Behrens.
The Missouri Chamber also testified in favor of the bill. Supporting this measure is part of the Missouri Chamber’s push for legal climate reforms that will improve our state’s litigation fairness ranking in the eyes of job creators and site selectors.