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Statement by Mid-Michigan Asbestos Disease Victims in Opposition to HB 5456

Statement by Mid-Michigan Asbestos Disease Victims in Opposition to HB 5456

HB 5456Two weeks ago a bill HB 5456 titled Asbestos Claim Transparency, drafted by the National Chamber of Commerce and out of state Asbestos companies was pushed into Michigan through their lobbyists.

Michigan’s Commanders Group (Congressionally Chartered Veterans Organizations) filed their resolution in opposition to the bill. The group includes American Legion, American Veterans, Disabled American Veterans, Jewish War Veterans of the United States, Marine Corps League, noncommissioned officers association, Polish American Veterans, order of the Purple Heart, Vietnam veterans of America, paralyzed Veterans of America, and the veterans of foreign wars. Michigan’s first responders through the fire fighters union have filed their opposition. Michigan Association for Justice on behalf of asbestos disease victims throughout Michigan has filed their opposition.

HB 5456 seeks to delay and diminish if not deny compensation from the responsible asbestos corporations to victims. Since we already have transparency by law in Michigan (all bankruptcy claim documents are furnished to trial defendants 6 months before trial) this transparency titled proposal is designed with one goal in mind – to run out the clock on asbestos victims in Michigan so they die before their cases even make it to court.

What is HB5456?

HB 5456 would:

  • Delay Filing of cases for Asbestos Cancer Victims.
  • Drastically alter evidentiary proof of substantial exposure to Chapter 11 Asbestos
    Company products and change procedural rules for asbestos cases to force courts to
    dilute and reduce judgments in favor of victims.
  •  Authorize defendant corporations to unilaterally delay trial repeatedly, so that victims
    could die before their day in court. Patients with asbestos cancer usually die within 2
    years of diagnosis.
  • Prevent final judgements for an Asbestos Cancer plaintiff and payment of damages for 1 year following trial.

The concept of this one-sided legislation began at the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. The group incubates and disseminates legislative proposals for use by state legislators. ALEC is heavily funded by companies with major asbestos liability, including Koch IndustriesHoneywell and 3M and their insurers.

Asbestos can linger in the body for decades before illness strikes. Patients who develop asbestos-related diseases today were exposed a generation ago, when the asbestos industry was fully aware of the dangers, but failed to warn and protect industrial workers, construction laborers, military personnel, and others who were exposed on the job or by contact with exposed family members.

An estimated 10,000 – 15,000 Americans die each year from asbestos-related diseases and people are still getting sick. Dozens of countries have banned asbestos, but it is not banned in the United States. As companies continue to import hundreds of tons of asbestos into the U.S. each year, workers, first responders and others continue to be exposed, especially when buildings are renovated or demolished. HB 5456 puts onerous burdens on victims and asbestos trusts, but does nothing to protect innocent Michigan workers from exposure to asbestos. And don’t forget, this is a veterans’ issue. Forty percent (4 out of 10) of all Michigan asbestos victims are veterans. That’s why the major veterans groups oppose this bill.

Asbestos was once widely used in a number of industries that employed many people in
Michigan, including construction, steel, pulp and paper production and the auto industry. Michigan has a higher-than-average mortality rate for asbestos-related diseases, according to AsbestosNation.org. Nearly 7,900 Michigan residents died from asbestos diseases between 1999 and 2013 alone.

Michigan Veterans are disproportionally afflicted with asbestos-related diseases. While they make up 8 percent of the U.S. population, they account for roughly 40 percent (4 out of 10) of Michigan residents who contract asbestos lung cancer and mesothelioma, a cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs, stomach and other organs caused only by asbestos.

Legal experts with the Michigan Association for Justice, point out the bill makes no sense in Michigan. Michigan already has “Transparency” by Court Order (CMO16) and Michigan juries already consider fault of all bankrupt asbestos companies; MI has had apportionment of damages by Statute since the 1995 Tort Reform bill.

Since we already have transparency by court rule in Michigan the true insidious purpose of this asbestos industry bill is to create delays. Generally asbestos plaintiffs have only a short time to live. Delays are beneficial to asbestos defendants for a number of reasons. The time value of money is different for a dying plaintiff, who in many cases will heavily discount the value of his or her claim. Cancer victims want to settle their affairs, pay for new treatments to extend their lives and generally have a little piece of mind in their last months on earth that their spouse will have some financial security. And, whether a plaintiff is alive or dead is one of the strongest criteria for the value of a case. Juries tend to award live plaintiffs much higher verdicts.

Any legislation that could add further burdens or harm to those who suffer from asbestos disease should be seen as nothing short of an outrage by every resident of Michigan. The elected leaders in Lansing should oppose this legislation that could cruelly and unfairly deny justice to many of their fellow citizens, including those who served our nation.

About Goldberg, Persky & White P.C.

The Mesothelioma Law Firm, GPW, has some of the top mesothelioma lawyers in the nation. With over forty years of experience, we are hard to beat. We have been pursuing asbestos claims on behalf of asbestos victims since 1976. We are the top mesothelioma lawyers in Michigan. Very few mesothelioma law firms have had million dollar settlements for their clients, we have. We currently have over 5,000 clients, and the number grows daily. Our team has put together data on Michigan Mesothelioma Doctors and info on our Pennsylvania branch with the leading Pennsylvania mesothelioma lawyers. A Detroit Asbestos Lawyer can greatly help a victim of Michigan asbestos exposure. We stand against HB 5456.