Rep. Bruce DeGroot, a Republican from Chesterfield, has introduced a bill to prevent unfairness in asbestos claims. House Bill 1645 would prevent the current practice of double-dipping that depletes limited trust fund resources to the detriment of future claimants.
During the bill’s first hearing on Jan. 16, DeGroot said that the current laws have led to Missouri’s reputation for having courts that are unfavorable to business.
“It’s stifling our economy,” said DeGroot. “The way the law is written now allows a plaintiff’s attorney to file a claim against a solvent company for exposure to asbestos. Once they get their settlement or judgment in the civil court system, then they go ahead and file against the bankruptcy trust. In essence, they’re double-dipping… getting two to three times what your case is worth.”
Sen. Wayne Wallingford, a Republican from Cape Girardeau, testified in favor of the bill.
“Under HB 1645, juries would be more fully informed of a plaintiff’s exposure to asbestos and able to properly decide liability,” Wallingford said.
Wallingford also said that twelve other states have enacted similar disclosure laws.
Justin Arnold, general counsel for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, pointed out that the current law is doing an injustice to smaller businesses.
“We’re seeing smaller businesses being pulled into the litigation. If there are liabilities, our member companies are willing to pay for those if there are legitimate claims,” Arnold said. “Their concern is that there are other exposures being alleged in the trusts that our member companies are not aware of and are not able to defend against, and so this bill will bring both those aspects into the same arena so that those issues can be fairly litigated.”
For more information, contact Arnold at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573.634.3511.