Texas Senate Passes Asbestos-Litigation Bill

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Dallas, TX—The Texas Senate has just passed a bill that will change the exposure standards for asbestos litigation, and which will potentially put thousands of businesses at risk for litigation.

Senate Bill 1123, set forth by Senator Robert Duncan, passed on Thursday by a 20-11 vote. It will reverse the decision by in a 2007 Texas Supreme Court, in the matter of Borg-Warner Corp. v. Flores, which put the burden of proof on plaintiffs. That case mandated that plaintiffs not only had to prove exposure to asbestos manufactured by a defendant, but they also had to prove the exposure was sufficient to be a substantial factor in a later diagnosis of mesothelioma.

The new bill lowers those requirements, making it easier for plaintiffs to bring, and win, suits against companies that manufactured, worked with, or abated asbestos-containing materials.

Asbestos, a naturally occurring fibrous mineral, has been prized in the building and construction industries for its heat-, chemical- and electrical resistance. It is both lightweight and strong, and can be woven into fabric or added to substances such as concrete, making it a versatile construction material. Widely used between 1940 and 1980 for many commercial and residential applications, asbestos can still be found in a majority of buildings.

Those who worked with asbestos in their careers are at risk for several deadly diseases caused by inhaling the fibers, such as pleural disease, asbestosis and mesothelioma. One of the rarest but also one of the most aggressive cancers, mesothelioma, is particularly difficult to treat since its symptoms may remain latent for decades after the initial exposure to asbestos. By the time it is diagnosed, it is virtually incurable.

Labor unions, whose members include a number of asbestos litigants, and trial lawyers praised the passage of SB 1123. In opposition to the measure where tort reform groups and business leaders. They fear that this bill, which effectively places the burden of proof on the defendant, will lead to an overwhelming number of asbestos-related lawsuits, which will in turn bankrupt small businesses.

A House version of the bill, HB 1811, is pending in the House Committee on the Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence.

 

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