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Texas Asbestos Law Designed to Make Settlements Fair

Oct 11, 2007
Mesothelioma lawsuits are among the most highly publicized personal injury and tort lawsuits filed in the country. For the past several years, many states and the federal government have been under pressure from the insurance companies for big businesses that exposed thousands of workers to asbestos to stem the tide of lawsuits against them. The federal government attempted year after year to forge a law that would preserve the rights of those who were injured by their exposure to asbestos while "protecting" the insurance companies and asbestos makers from bankruptcy. At the same time, a number of states were working on their own legislation to help control mesothelioma litigation that was choking their courts. In 2005, Texas became one of the first states in the nation to pass an asbestos litigation reform law. The asbestos reform law in Texas was designed to address several problems with mesothelioma lawsuits in the Texas courts.

Reduce number of mesothelioma lawsuits
Until 2005, the statute of limitations for filing a mesothelioma lawsuit pushed many victims of asbestos exposure into filing suit when they first learned of the exposure rather than risk losing their right to any compensation at all. The existing tort law imposed a statute of limitations that was never meant to apply to a disease that could take up to thirty years to manifest after exposure to its cause. Texas tort law started the clock ticking toward the statute at the time that a plaintiff first learned that they had been exposed to asbestos.

The problem with this method was that a person diagnosed with asbestosis, for example, has a far higher risk of developing mesothelioma, but there's no clear cut way to tell if that will happen, nor is there a set timeline. Some people diagnosed with asbestosis don't develop mesothelioma for decades, and some don't develop it at all. If mesothelioma didn't develop before the statute of limitations ran out, the exposed person was out of luck. Instead of giving up any right to compensation for astronomical medical expenses, many people chose to file suit for damages based on their exposure and heightened risk rather than wait and see if they developed the illness.

The 2005 tort reform addressed the issue in two ways:

- It changed the point where the clock for the statute of limitations for filing begins to run so that those who learn that they have been exposed but are not yet ill can preserve their right to file a mesothelioma lawsuit if they do become ill. This is a countermeasure to the requirement to show illness. By changing the statute of limitations, the legislature ensured that those who learn they've been exposed to asbestos don't lose their right to file for compensation due to the disease's slow progress.
- The law now requires that those who file a mesothelioma lawsuit show proof that they are suffering from an impairment caused by an asbestos related disease. This measure is expected to reduce the number of mesothelioma lawsuits by only allowing lawsuits filed by those who are actually ill.

While both of these measures reduce the court time and costs for dealing with mesothelioma suits and claims, they also make it more complex to file a mesothelioma suit in the Texas courts. As the law stands now, the plaintiff must show:

- That the exposed person has been diagnosed by a board-certified physician with mesothelioma or other related cancer OR
- That the exposed person has been diagnosed by a board-certified physician and has an actual physical impairment because of exposure to asbestos, and that impairment must meet certain medical requirements

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos related cancer, the 2005 law directly affects how your case will be handled by the Texas courts. There are deadlines that must be met in filing your case, and in responding to answers and motions from the defendants. It's more important than ever that you consult a top mesothelioma lawyer in Texas who understands the laws, and can ensure that all the procedures are followed to the letter.

The law firms that deal with Texas mesothelioma lawsuits on a regular basis can do more than argue your case in court. A top Texas mesothelioma lawyer can provide you with assistance in assembling the medical papers and proofs that you need, as well as researching your case to help pinpoint how, when and where you were exposed to asbestos. When you consult with an experienced law office, your lawyers will have access to years worth of research and contacts and experience in case law.
About the Author
Nick Johnson is lead counsel with Johnson Law Group. Johnson represents plaintiffs in many states and focuses on injury cases involving Fen-Phen and PPH, Paxil, Mesothelioma and Nursing Home Abuse. Call Nick Johnson at 1-888-311-5522 or visit http://www.johnsonlawgroup.com
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