Tort reform bill passes Senate

Sen. Janek’s SB 15 proposing asbestos and silica lawsuit reform passed the Senate this afternoon. Click here to review TSCPA’s support for this legislation.

The Texas Civil Justice League led the battle to get SB 15 passed – here is their press release on the successful Senate effort:

Texas Senate Passes Asbestos and Silica Lawsuit Reform 30-1
Coalition Applauds Bill to Protect Victims and Reduce Frivolous Lawsuits

AUSTIN, TEXAS — The Texas Senate passed comprehensive asbestos and silica lawsuit reform legislation today. SB 15, sponsored by Sen. Kyle Janek, R-Houston, was approved in a 30-1 vote. The measure now heads to the House of Representatives where Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, has vowed swift action.

Statewide grassroots efforts to pass the bill are led by the Texas Asbestos Consumers Coalition, a project of the Texas Civil Justice League. Since 1986, the Texas Civil Justice League has worked create a strong business climate by restoring fairness and stability to the state’s civil justice system.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, along with Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, and Sen. Janek, conducted extensive negotiations in recent weeks to fashion legislation that preserves the rights of victims and protects Texas businesses from frivolous lawsuits.

Ralph Wayne, president of the Texas Civil Justice League and former chairman of the American Tort Reform Association, commended state senators, saying, "Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and his colleagues have worked hard to craft legislation that protects victims and improves the state’s civil justice system. SB 15 will be a national model for asbestos and silica lawsuit reform."

Robert S. Howden, Texas Asbestos Consumers Coalition coordinator, praised lawmakers for "working diligently to achieve meaningful asbestos and silica lawsuit reform that benefits Texas by protecting victims and businesses."

Former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, who represented the Texas Civil Justice League and Texas Asbestos Consumers Coalition during Senate negotiations, called Senators Duncan and Janek "true champions of reform."

Gov. Rick Perry asked state lawmakers to enact asbestos and silica lawsuit reform in his State of the State Address earlier this year.

SB 15 substantially improves the state’s asbestos and silica litigation problem. Significant features of the legislation include:

  • Establishing medical criteria for all pending and future asbestos claims, including a requirement that all claimants submit a qualifying medical report with a pulmonary function test that demonstrates physical impairment. This requirement will go a long way toward weeding unimpaired claims out of the system.
  • Providing that all pending asbestos claims that have not been scheduled for trial within 90 days after the effective date, except for cases involving cancer, are subject to the multi-district litigation court process. This process will efficiently separate impaired and unimpaired cases and expedite cases involving truly impaired claimants.
  • Assuring that the most seriously ill — those suffering from mesothelioma or other malignancy caused by exposure to asbestos or silica — will receive expedited trials and adequate compensation for their injuries.
  • Requiring that each asbestos case be tried on its own merits, not as part of a "bundle" of claims that may include a few truly sick claimants and dozens of unimpaired claimants. This change will also assure that compensation that should go to the truly sick is not diverted to pay claimants with no asbestos or silica-related illness.
  • Shutting down the "mass screening" of potential asbestos and silica claimants that has resulted in tens of thousands of unimpaired asbestos claims in our courts.

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