Legislation supported by MMA to address frivolous asbestos lawsuits adversely impacting Michigan manufacturers passed the House of Representatives last week on a 58-51 vote.
House Bill 5456, introduced by Representative Jason Wentworth (R-Farwell), would establish the Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Claims Transparency Act and promote transparency in litigation, protect small businesses and preserve resources for those who have been injured by exposure to asbestos. Despite the establishment of asbestos bankruptcy trusts, the issue of asbestos has morphed into a swath of tort actions filed against small businesses that are unrelated to the asbestos exposure.
“The lack of transparency between the bankruptcy trust and tort systems has led to abuses targeting small, unrelated companies in Michigan with nuisance lawsuits,” said Delaney McKinley, MMA senior director of government affairs and membership. “Despite the fact that these small businesses had no involvement in the plaintiff’s illness, they often must deplete their insurance coverage with defense costs, become saddled with litigation expenses and eventually are forced to settle to put the issue behind them.”
MMA supports HB 5456 as it will require plaintiffs to disclose the full picture of their asbestos exposure without preventing a person injured by exposure to asbestos from having their day in court. Through this, courts and juries can accurately assess which companies are responsible for the claimant’s injuries.
“By allowing sunshine into the courtroom and taking the blinders off the eyes of jurors, HB 5456 will prevent fraud and ensure fairness for all defendants and all claimants in the dual asbestos compensation system,” said McKinley.
The bill now heads to the Senate. For more information on this issue, check out MMA’s newly released talking points.
This article first appeared in the 2/13/18 issue of MFG Voice.