Georgia Law Protects Corporate Interests in Asbestos Cases

Let’s face it, if you have been exposed to asbestos you have a ticking time bomb in your chest, regardless of whether you have contracted mesothelioma, asbestosis or any other asbestos-related disease. It is true that not everyone who has been exposed to asbestos will necessarily contract a pleural or respiratory disease. If one is fortunate, such a disease may never develop. Nonetheless, the stress and anxiety felt by those who have suffered asbestos exposure robs them of their peace of mind. Typically, they must have regular examinations to monitor their respiratory health, and may be undergoing preventive therapies if any are available. This of course assumes the potential asbestos victims are fortunate enough to be covered by health insurance, and that their for-profit health insurer hasn’t dropped them for a real or trumped-up reason. The bottom line: fear over developing a disease from asbestos exposure has been seen as legitimate grounds for litigation. Unless you live in Georgia!

Two years ago, Governor Sonny Perdue signed legislation into law protecting corporations from being sued in asbestos cases unless the plaintiff already exhibits symptoms of an asbestos disease. Georgia House Bill 416 states that a civil claim for asbestos or silica-related damages cannot be filed unless the plaintiff can prove that s/he suffers from a related disease and that asbestos or silica was the cause. The law also establishes “medical standards” for differentiating between those who are ill and those who are not. In addition, such claims may only be filed in the jurisdiction of plaintiff’s residence or the county in which the exposure occurred. This prevents victims from filing in a jurisdiction in which legal and social conditions may help the plaintiff’s case. To be fair, there are some upsides that streamline the legal process and address some genuine abuses of the system that have occurred, for example, single claims against multiple unrelated defendants are now prohibited. The new law also extends the statute of limitations–the amount of time a plaintiff has to file a claim before his/her right to sue expires. Similar legislation was also passed in Ohio and Florida.