Legislation that would limit asbestos lawsuits continues to make the rounds throughout the country with Indiana and Kansas lawmakers being the latest to consider it. Created by conservative organization the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the bill in similar formats has been enacted in 12 other states.
Critics charge that such legislation is unfair to terminally-ill cancer victims who were exposed to the fire-resistant asbestos while on the job. If the bill is enacted, they would not be able to sue a manufacturer after more than 10 years had elapsed since being exposed to asbestos. However, asbestos-related diseases are seldom diagnosed within 10 years of exposure.
Mesothelioma: a usually fatal cancer
Proponents of the bill – which include business lobbyists the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform – have countered that businesses would be unfairly burdened financially.
Many blue-collar American employees such as construction workers, miners and manufacturers were exposed to the fire-resistant asbestos from the 1940s to 1970s and became sick decades later with illnesses such as mesothelioma, a usually fatal form of cancer in the lining of the chest cavity.
Although the average age of a person diagnosed with mesothelioma is 73, younger workers in their 30s and 40s also are getting it, too. Many of these workers were diagnosed with the disease after working with asbestos-containing pipes, ceiling tiles and car brakes.
Indiana, Kansas summaries
Here are some updates on what has happened in Indiana and Kansas:
- Indiana: The legislation includes placing limits on lawsuits, recommending lawsuits be filed within 10 years of asbestos exposure, requiring plaintiffs to file forms within 30 days that disclosed any settlements they may have received from trust funds created by asbestos makers that went bankrupt, and prevents plaintiffs from filing a lawsuit until they become sick.
- Kansas: The House passed a bill that would reduce compensation to terminally ill cancer victims who had been exposed to asbestos. The bill also would require claims against defendants be filed within 30 days, overburdening the victims with excessive paperwork.
The list of workers who have been exposed to asbestos includes firefighters, veterans, machinists, locomotive engineers, power plant workers and shipyard workers. Many have been diagnosed with mesothelioma.
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