Michigan state lawmakers recently passed legislation that could severely restrict access to justice for mesothelioma cancer victims seeking their day in court to recover vital compensation and hold asbestos companies responsible for their dangerous products. The 58-51 vote, along party lines, passed the Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Claims Transparency Act as a means to prevent so-called “double dipping” by plaintiffs seeking to recover the compensation they need to pay for medical bills and lost wages.
In some states, mesothelioma cancer victims have the option to file administrative claims with asbestos bankruptcy trusts set up by companies wthat sought federal bankruptcy protections but still needed to fund settlements for future liabilities. Michigan is one of numerous states that recently passed similar legislation forcing plaintiffs in civil lawsuits against solvent parties to disclose whether or not they have filed claims with any asbestos bankruptcy trusts.
Unfortunately for plaintiffs, the law also has another built-in component designed to deny and delay otherwise meritorious claims Under the bill, if the defendant in an asbestos action identified an asbestos trust claim not previously identified that the defendant thinks the plaintiff could file, the defendant could request a stay of the proceeding.
The plaintiff would then have to file the asbestos trust claim, file a response stating why there is insufficient evidence to file such a claim, or file a response requesting the court to determine that the cost of filing the claim would exceed the amount the plaintiff could expect to recover. If the court finds that there is a sufficient basis for the plaintiff to file the claim, the court would be required to stay the asbestos action until the plaintiff files the claim and produces the related trust claims materials.
The result of all this would effectively allow defense attorneys for big asbestos corporations to indefinitely delay legal proceedings and prevent plaintiffs from seeking justice. Sadly, by the time many asbestos cancer victims receive their mesothelioma diagnoses and actually file their claims, these individuals do not have long to live, and a delay in litigation will only decrease the chances that plaintiffs will have their days in court.
“Some of those who are most impacted by asbestos exposure are our firefighters, construction workers, veterans, police and first responders,” said State Representative Yousef Rabhi. “Putting corporate donors above our first responders, construction workers and veterans is despicable.” Unfortunately, the type of laws passed in Michigan are gaining traction in many other state houses across the country and will continue to spread until voters take a stand for the victims.
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If you or a loved one were diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact our office to speak to one of our experienced nationwide mesothelioma attorneys about your situation. We can help investigate your case and determine if compensation can be sought from negligent parties to help pay for your medical treatment to help you and your family live a more comfortable life.
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