The Tennessee state legislature has passed a bill intending to stop lawyers representing people in asbestos lawsuits from “double dipping,” or filing multiple claims with asbestos bankruptcy trusts to receive multiple payouts for a single claimant. The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) applauded the bill’s passage, saying it will help to combat asbestos fraud and legal abuse, and has urged Gov. Bill Haslam to sign it into law.
Exposure to asbestos, a group of minerals that occur naturally as fiber bundles in soil and rocks, is the leading cause of malignant mesothelioma, especially pleural mesothelioma, a rare and very aggressive cancer that starts in the specialized cells that line body organs and structures, such as the chest and abdomen. If inhaled, asbestos fibers can deposit in the lungs, small airways and the pleural lining, where they can cause severe damage to the pleura and lead to mesothelioma development. Asbestos can also cause scar tissue in the lung (asbestosis), and lung cancer. Although high levels of asbestos exposure are associated with professions related to mining and construction activities, it can also occur through the breakdown of asbestos, which was once widely used to insulate buildings, like homes and schools.
A growing number of U.S. states, including Arizona, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, have recently enacted laws to combat legal fraud and abuse, and enforce transparency in the asbestos compensation system. Tennessee’s legislative effort was led by state Rep. Jon Lundberg and state Sen. John Stevens. The legislation, HB 2234, officially is known as the “Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Claims Transparency Act.”
“This bill will ensure that companies and bankruptcy trusts both pay their fair share of recoveries to claimants. It will also help Tennessee manufacturing companies and protect jobs by ensuring that no more companies are bankrupted by abusive claims,” Lisa A. Rickard, president of the ILR, the civil justice arm of the U.S. Chambers of Commerce, said in a press release.