In a 5 to 2 ruling, the Ohio Supreme Court recently ruled it constitutional for the lower courts to apply a 2004 law that made filing asbestos lawsuits more difficult to suits filed prior to that law being passed. More than 40,000 asbestos victims and their families were affected by the ruling, and many of them will likely not see any recompense for their suffering and anguish from being exposed to the known carcinogen, asbestos. The majority opinion of the Ohio Supreme Court held that the law was “remedial and procedural.” Rather than altering the nature or subject of the lawsuits, which would have been banned by the Ohio Constitution, the law merely changed the requirements for filing a lawsuit for asbestos exposure .
Passed in 2004, the law was designed to ease the largest number of pending asbestos cases in the nation. It required expert testimony from the physician who had treated the patient for his asbestos-caused disease rather than a doctor who only evaluated the patient’s condition. The same medical professional also had to be able to testify that the disease had significantly impaired the patient’s life or resulted in his or her death. Many of those who had filed asbestos-related lawsuits were asymptomatic at the time, but they had already suffered from working or living near asbestos fibers or dust. Inhalation of asbestos particles is linked to a scarring of the lungs, asbestosis, and such exposure is the only known cause of one of the deadliest cancers, mesothelioma. The 2004 law will render invalid the cases of thousands of asbestos claimants who had yet to manifest symptoms, but these people exposed to asbestos, though asymptomatic for the present, are still at risk since asbestos-related diseases often take ten to twenty years after exposure to be detectable. While businesses in Ohio are glad to not worry about the prospect of having to pay these claims, the plaintiffs of these suits are as to be expected, displeased. They feel that the Ohio Supreme Court sided with big businesses while ignoring their needs.