For years the Lone Star State led the nation in the volume of asbestos litigation filed in its courts, much of it dubious, but that has changed drastically in recent years. A new report from the Texas Civil Justice League (PDF) says the state’s reforms have worked well:
The great bulk of asbestos litigation in Texas resulted from entrepreneurial activity by lawyers who filed lawsuits on behalf of tens of thousands of people suffering no discernable illness. Enterprising lawyers then decided to replicate the asbestos-litigation model with silica litigation, again filing cases on behalf of thousands of people suffering no injury. With the passage of S.B. 15 in 2005, the Texas Legislature took a leading role in the national effort to end the abusive aspects of asbestos and silica litigation.
Claims without significant impairment were moved to an “inactive docket”, while cases alleging malignancy — which make up most of the docket of what are regarded as stronger asbestos cases — were expedited in several ways, particularly for claimants who were alive during the process. At the same time, Texas law and judicial practice were developing in other ways so as to allow easier dismissal of unmeritorious silica claims, and to hold asbestos claimants to a standard of causation more similar to that of other toxic torts (Borg-Warner v. Flores). The study examines and defends these developments as well. More: Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine.