Ohio Law Threatens Mesothelioma Victims’ Rights

by Sokolove Law

A new Ohio law, HB 380, provides an unfair advantage to corporate defendants in asbestos lawsuits. Effective March 2013, HB 380 requires mesothelioma victims and other plaintiffs who file an asbestos lawsuit in Ohio to disclose information on all existing and prior asbestos claims they have made with asbestos bankruptcy trusts, including any mesothelioma settlements they have been awarded. Corporate defendants, however, will continue to be allowed to keep their asbestos and mesothelioma settlements private.

In addition, if a corporate defendant asserts that a plaintiff has not filed claims against all possible other defendants, court proceedings can be delayed. Ricky LeBlanc, Managing Asbestos Attorney at Sokolove Law, says, “The delay provision is particularly disturbing, because defendants have a long history of using delaying tactics against their weak victims.”

The law’s disclosure requirements apply only to asbestos cases. LeBlanc notes, “This contravenes the standard process of American jurisprudence. In every jurisdiction, the majority of U.S. civil claims are resolved by a negotiated settlement that both parties agree to keep private. Likewise, records of asbestos bankruptcy trust negotiations and mesothelioma settlements have long been protected by confidentiality.”

Attorney LeBlanc adds, “As part of their misinformation campaign, corporate defendants and their lobby frequently claim that mesothelioma victims engage in ‘double-dipping’ to receive multiple compensations for the same injury.” LeBlanc stresses that this is untrue. If an asbestos lawsuit results in a jury award to the plaintiff, the judge is informed about previous settlements and awards received by the victim. The judge deducts the amount of prior compensation from the jury’s award, which ensures the victim does not receive duplicate payments.

Ohio is the first state to enact such legislation, but bills with provisions similar to Ohio’s new law have been introduced in Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, and West Virginia. On the national level, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on the Judiciary passed the Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency (FACT) Act (H.R. 4369) in July of 2012. The FACT Act was championed by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, an organization created to promote the interests of big business.

Sokolove Law urges legislators and the public to remember that asbestos bankruptcy trusts were created to limit the liability of manufacturers of asbestos-containing products. Assessing extra burdens on asbestos victims through legislation benefitting asbestos manufacturers is a travesty of justice.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact Sokolove Law. Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure, and you may be entitled to compensation. Sokolove Law has offices across the country and more than thirty years of experience as a mesothelioma law firm. We have helped thousands of injured parties obtain compensation.

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