A senate panel backed a measure that would require asbestos exposure victims to turn over most key details about their cases within thirty days.

Veterans specifically say the bill narrows their rights. If someone dies of mesothelioma, a cancer in the lining of the lungs almost always caused by asbestos exposure, their spouse likely wouldn’t know where exactly on a sprawling aircraft carrier they were exposed. Even a living patient might not know those answers.

“When you’re in the military at 19, 20, you don’t pay attention to the addresses,” said David Root, legislative chairman for the Ohio chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and a Navy sailor who served in Vietnam. “And even if you did, you’re never going to remember them 40, 50 years later, when you start getting sick.”

For firefighters, the bill’s requirements would be “impossible” to meet, according to Jon Harvey, the president of the Ohio Association of Professional Firefighters and the captain of the Middletown Fire Department. He warned of “unintended consequences” to fire fighters under the bill.

Sen. George Lang, a Westchester Republican, sponsored the bill. He declined interview requests. But addressing lawmakers in the committee, he said companies who are “innocent bystanders” all too often are named in lawsuits in asbestos cases and eventually dismissed, but only after eating thousands in legal costs.

Asbestos Rules and Regulations

This proposal is the latest example of tort reform in Ohio. Tort freeform advocates, mostly big businesses, try to make it difficult to bring cases to court and/or obtain fair compensation for injuries. 

State legislatures, like Ohio’s, aren’t the only players. Many judges, most of whom are elected and count on contributions from big businesses, have jumped on the tort reform train as well. In 2019, the Ohio Supreme Court subtly changed the state’s pleading rules in a very business-friendly way.

These changes aren’t earth shattering by themselves. But each change creates another hurdle that an asbestos exposure lawyer must jump over during the civil claims process.

Asbestos laws in general are also business-friendly. Scientists from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have said there’s no safe asbestos exposure level. Yet OSHA rules state that low levels of asbestos are safe. Other environmental laws take the same approach. Despite the known health hazards of asbestos, this substance is still legal to use in the United States.

Business interests keep asbestos legal because the substance is so cheap. Personal freedom advocates often oppose asbestos regulation as well. Several years ago, a New York lawmaker said “I don’t want a bunch of environmentalists and communists telling me what’s good for my life and family.” 

Primarily for these reasons, it’s unlikely that the government will ban asbestos. When politicians fail to protect injury victims, lawyers stand up for their legal and financial rights.

Bringing a Case

If it passes, Senate Bill 63 would accelerate the case preparation process. Attorneys must present specific information, like the street address of the barracks at Fort Wherever, almost immediately instead of later in the process. Other lawmakers in other states are considering similar laws. This possibility highlights the need for a well-prepared attorney to diligently, and quickly, build a strong case, usually in three steps.

Medical Evidence

A solid asbestos exposure claim begins with a solid medical diagnosis of an asbestos exposure-related illness, such as:

  • Pleural Mesothelioma: This rare and aggressive form of lung cancer begins with a tumor in the meso lining between the heart and lung. Usually, these tumors grow undetected for at least fifty years. Since most PM victims are in their 70s or 80s, aggressive cancer treatments, like powerful chemotherapy drugs, are not a viable option.
  • Asbestosis: Toxic asbestos fibers not only alter cellular DNA, causing malignant tumors to form. These fibers also burn airways in the lungs. The resulting scar tissue blockers these airways, almost literally smothering victims. Once again, the victim often cannot physically tolerate the treatment, which in this case is usually a radical lung transplant.
  • Peritoneal Mesothelioma: Abdominal cancer is usually associated with second-hand asbestos exposure. Asbestos-laced talcum powder is a good example. As minerals, talc and asbestos are similar in many ways. Stray talc fibers are common in asbestos products, and vice versa.

Asbestos exposure lawyers often commission Board Certified environmental oncologists in exposure cases. These professionals usually review the existing medical records, including test results, and also examine victim/plaintiffs.

Probable Exposure Window

These doctors accurately determine the probable asbestos exposure date based on the size of the tumor or the progression of the lung disease. Then, we use our W.A.R.D. database to quickly identify the likely exposure source. The Worldwide Asbestos Research Database enables us to gather information about a source that might take another lawyer weeks or months to acquire.

The burden of proof in civil courts is a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). So, an asbestos exposure lawyer doesn’t have to “prove” the defendant caused the victim’s asbestos exposure illness. Circumstantial evidence is sufficient.

The Defendant’s Negligence

For the third part of the case-building process, we once again partner with an outside professional, usually an industrial hygienist. This individual establishes the standard of care, a key element in a negligence case.

Several defenses are available in negligence cases, such as contributory negligence. For example, if the victim smokes, the defendant could blame cigarettes for the victim’s lung cancer. This argument resonates well with jurors. Furthermore, tort reform states usually have business-friendly comparative fault laws. 

Evidence usually beats arguments. Medical and other evidence usually drowns out the eloquent arguments of an insurance company lawyer.

Resolving a Civil Case

Students who do well on homework assignments usually do well on test day. Likewise, asbestos exposure lawyers who do their homework generally settle these cases out of court, and on victim-friendly terms.

Damages in an asbestos exposure case could run into the millions of dollars. Therefore, defendants usually drag their feet during settlement negotiations. They hope a delay frustrates the victim and pressures him/her to accept a low-ball offer.

This technique doesn’t work if a judge refers a case to mediation. During a mediation session, both sides have a duty to negotiate in good faith. They cannot drag their feet or go through the motions. Instead, they must make compromises and earnestly try to settle the matter.

Tort reformers have made things hard for plaintiffs at almost every phase of an asbestos exposure lawsuit, with the notable exception of mediation. The mediation success rate is about 80 percent in most jurisdictions. Because of the aforementioned good faith negotiation duty, these settlements are fair settlements, not one-sided resolutions.