The severe health effects associated with both occupational and non-occupational asbestos are well documented. However, the fact the asbestos-related diseases do not appear immediately is not as well known. According to the Texas Department of Health, asbestos-related diseases may not develop until 20 to 50 years after exposure.
Unfortunately, recent legislation proposed by a Texas lawmaker and the Texas Supreme Court’s upcoming decision in an asbestos case may make it more difficult for individuals to recover damages after suffering from exposure to asbestos, especially given the fact that the development of asbestos-related diseases often does not occur until many years after exposure.
Texas House Bill 1325 Will Allow for Dismissal of Certain Actions Arising from Exposure to Asbestos and Silica
On February 14, 2013, Texas Rep. Doug Miller filed H.B. 1325 that would allow Texas judges to dismiss thousands of pending asbestos and silica liability cases from Texas state courts. The bill proposes to clear inactive cases from the docket that were filed before the 2005 tort reforms relating to asbestos and silica litigation were enacted in Texas. Those reforms require individuals who alleged that they were harmed by asbestos exposure to submit a report showing that they were in fact diagnosed with malignant asbestos-related cancer or another medical condition as defined by statute. Per statute, the report must also prove that it was exposure to asbestos and/or silica that caused the disease, not other hazards such as smoking. When the law changed in 2005, all pending cases that failed to allege the requisite medical condition were moved to an inactive docket, where many remain today.
The proposed legislation would allow for all of those cases to be dismissed either on a defendant’s motion or by the court if they still do not include a medical report. If the bill passes and is signed by the governor, it will take effect September 1, 2013.
Supreme Court to Address Causation Requirements in Asbestos Case –Georgia-Pacific Corp. v. Bostic
On February 13, 2013, the Texas Supreme Court agreed to review the decision of the Court of Appeals in Georgia-Pacific Corp. v. Bostic. The Supreme Court’s decision in this case will have far reaching effects, essentially determining whether or not plaintiffs who worked primarily in Texas can continue to file asbestos lawsuits in Texas. The Supreme Court’s decision to hear this case is surprising given that they initially declined to hear plaintiff’s appeal.
In Bostic, the Dallas Court of Appeals essentially created a rule that makes it extremely difficult for asbestos claimants to assert a cause of action against multiple defendants, even if each defendant was responsible for an act which was potentially sufficient to have caused a plaintiff’s injury. Specifically, the court held that a plaintiff must prove that each defendant’s conduct was a cause-in-fact of the harm, which requires a plaintiff to establish that “but-for” the defendant’s conduct, the injury would not have occurred. In their appeal, Plaintiffs focused on the inequitableness that could result from a rule such as this, namely that parties could be absolved from liability because a plaintiff could not pinpoint exactly which fibers from a defendant’s particular product were the ones that actually produced the malignant growth. More importantly, if the Texas Supreme Court upholds the decision of the Court of Appeals, it could make it difficult, if not impossible, for any defendants in multiple-defendant asbestos (or other toxic-tort) cases to be liable no matter how tortious their conduct.
Despite the fact that the state of asbestos litigation in Texas may be impact in the near future by the proposed legislation and pending court decision, we can still help. if you or someone you know one was exposed to asbestos at work, you may still be able to claim compensation from the employer at the time of the exposure. Our goal is to obtain the highest possible compensation for injured workers and their families. In the event that you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer or Mesothelioma, call a San Antonio personal injury lawyer at Carabin Shaw.
New Treatment, Diagnostic Tools for Mesothelioma Patients May be on the Horizon, Texas Injury Lawyers Blog, April 24, 2012