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New Hampshire State Senate Considers Bill to Restrict Legal Rights of Asbestos Cancer Victims

Despite state courts not having to deal with asbestos cancer lawsuits for quite some time, the New Hampshire state senate is poised to introduced proposed legislation that could seriously limit the legal rights of mesothelioma cancer victims. If passed, the proposed law would put New Hampshire in a group of over one dozen states that have passed so-called transparency acts aimed at slowing the pace of litigation and forcing plaintiffs to take legal steps they otherwise would not be obliged to.


In studying the issue, the New Hampshire state senate has created a study committee to "review the current compensation system specific to asbestos litigation and study ways to promote transparency, fairness, and timeliness of payment in the asbestos litigation system in New Hampshire." Specifically, the study committee will look into whether or not mesothelioma cancer victims should be required to explore alternative avenues for compensation for their injuries.


Additionally, many of the asbestos tort reform bills being circulated around states legislatures require plaintiffs to disclose to courts whether or not they have filed claims for compensation from any asbestos administrative trusts in addition to filing a formal lawsuit. Many of the largest asbestos companies were required to create trusts for asbestos cancer victims to file claims as part of the business' release of liability to file for federal bankruptcy protections.


Supporters of the transparency acts claim the bills help prevent "double dipping" by plaintiffs who draw funds from asbestos bankruptcy claims and seek to blame other parties for their mesothelioma cancer diagnoses. However, there is little if any evidence to show that asbestos cancer victims and their attorneys are engaging in such practices or doing so with the attempt to unscrupulously enhance the amount of compensation as a result.


Furthermore, the laws often come with mechanisms that can delay legal proceedings when plaintiffs do eventually file lawsuits to hold solvent parties accountable for manufacturing dangerous products. Under some bills, defendants have the ability to request extensions almost indefinitely and for no good legal reason other than to ward of litigation.


Many mesothelioma advocates worry that the deny, delay, and defend tactics that the bills afford asbestos companies coupled with the short life expectancy victims have after receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis means that many plaintiffs will not live to see justice served. Hopefully, for the sake of mesothelioma cancer victims in the state of New Hampshire, the state senate will take some of these aspects into consideration when deciding whether or not to recommend the legislature take up the issue of placing such restrictions on plaintiffs.


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