As one of the final acts of its lame-duck session, the Ohio General Assembly sent Gov. John Kasich a bad bill that limits the ability of asbestos victims to get their day in court. The governor says he will sign the bill. He should think again.
The bill requires asbestos victims to disclose all other entities they have sued, including federal bankruptcy trusts, and divulge evidence presented in those cases. The effect of the requirement would largely be to drag out court proceedings.
Defendant companies could ask judges for delays on the mere suspicion that victims didn’t file all information from past cases or failed to sue other parties first. The ambiguity gives legal muscle to those who are eager to stall.
Ohio businesses that handle asbestos, a material known to cause lung cancer, have benefited from a state law passed in 2004. It greatly raised the bar on evidence requirements: Plaintiffs now must produce far more than X-rays.
Shortly after the law took effect, the vast majority of 44,000 pending cases were dismissed. New filings slowed.
Some lawmakers who support the current measure say its primary objective is to prevent plaintiffs from double-dipping. Asbestos victims who seek to hold polluters accountable do not deserve to be penalized financially.
This bill would impede workplace safety and give asbestos companies an unwarranted safety net, without aiding consumers or making government more efficient. It deserves a veto.
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