A number of states are considering (or have enacted) legislation to change the way mesothelioma cases are litigated. The new proposals are ostensibly based on the desire to make the litigation process more efficient, and to offer more transparency for mesothelioma victims.
In Ohio, the legislature may take up a bill that requires workers to disclose whether they have been part of an asbestos litigation lawsuit. The bills' supporters believe that it would prevent mesothelioma victims from "double-dipping" by seeking damages from trusts set up by bankrupt companies while pursuing lawsuits against active companies at the same time. The House of Representative passed a similar version of the bill in 2012.
In California, the civil code was recently amended to limit victims' deposition testimony to 14 hours in mesothelioma cases. Videotaped depositions are commonly used in the event that the victim could not testify at trial (mostly due to illness). However, some defense attorneys would prolong depositions until the claimant could no longer testify (either because they passed away or were too ill to testify). If the person could not complete the deposition, the entire testimony could not be used at trial.
With the amended code, it is believed that mesothelioma victims will stand a better chance of living through their depositions.
We anticipate that a number of additional measures will be introduced to streamline the process of litigation. Asbestos related claims are growing across the country. More than 5,700 cases are pending in federal court in Cleveland alone and more than 8,500 companies across the United States are defendants in such cases.
We will continue to report on changes as we learn about them.
Source: Cleveland.com, Ohio Senate panel takes up asbestos lawsuit bill, December 4, 2012; NBCNews.com, California limits depositions for mesothelioma victims and others, February 4, 2013