New Bill Would Alter Asbestos Litigation Process


Pipefitters and construction crews that work with asbestos are against a bill that could reduce personal injury claims related to a material used as insulation and a fire retardant.

Businesses that could be sued support the legislation, saying it protects from unscrupulous claims.

Critics say delay caused by additional procedural requirements in the bill could jeopardize the case of someone with an asbestos-related disease. Marybeth Nuutinen is from Appleton. Her husband died quickly after being diagnosed with a cancer connected to asbestos exposure called mesothelioma.

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“They were not a good 2 ½ months. If any of you have had to watch someone die of mesothelioma, it’s not something that you ever in your life want to see.”

The Republican author of the bill, Andre Jacque from De Pere says the bill could be amended to ensure a victim’s testimony is acquired before they die. Supporters of the bill deny it’s intended to run out the clock on asbestos claims, which can take three to five years to resolve. Those cases can take place both in state court and federal bankruptcy court.

Trevor Hill is an attorney who defends companies sued for asbestos exposure. He says defendants should know what is being said in both venues: “As things stand now, plaintiffs are able to say one thing in one court and something different in the bankruptcy trust.”

Under the bill, a case in state courts would be held up until companies get information on other cases the victims may pursue through bankruptcy trust. Plaintiffs say evidence for personal injury claims often surfaces during ongoing litigation and that having to present evidence at the front end of the legal process amounts to a catch-22.