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Ohio passes asbestos lawsuit disclosure bill

Under a new bill that will soon become law in Ohio, people who file asbestos lawsuits in that state will be required to disclose whether they have been involved in any earlier asbestos claims, under the threat of perjury charges. The governor of Ohio is expected to sign the bill. Similar legislation has also been introduced in at least four other states as well as the federal Congress.

People who are injured as a result of asbestos exposure generally have two means of seeking damages: lawsuits or trusts, the latter of which are more commonly set up by bankrupt companies to compensate victims. The stated aim of the new law is to prevent victims from "double-dipping," i.e. receiving money from a trust and then filing a lawsuit.

There are a few indisputably positive aspects about the new law. First, it preserves the rights of people who were exposed to asbestos and who were harmed as a result to file lawsuits against the companies or people responsible for that exposure. Second, the law does not include any form of damage caps.

The alleged goal of the new bill is to clear out some of the cases on the state's court backlog, which is one of the largest in the country. Currently, there are more than 5,700 cases pending on a sole county's asbestos docket, and cases are pending in at least 70 of Ohio's 88 counties.

However, some critics of the new law do not believe that the swollen docket is the real reason behind the law. "This bill is designed to give a handout to the asbestos industry while robbing dying cancer victims of their constitutional rights," said Anthony Gallucci of the Asbestos Victims Coalition. "The asbestos industry should be held accountable."

Source: Insurance Journal, "Asbestos Lawsuit Disclosure Bill Heads to Ohio Governor," Dec. 13, 2012

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