Asbestos bankruptcy trust bill dies in Senate committee

Kyle Barnett May 24, 2012, 10:39am

Melissa Landry

BATON ROUGE – A bill that would have provided more information to Louisiana juries hearing asbestos cases was voted down Tuesday in a Senate committee.

HB477 would have required plaintiffs in asbestos exposure lawsuits to provide a list of all potential defendants during the discovery process.

The bill passed the House unanimously, but was defeated in Senate Judiciary A in a 4-2 vote.

Proponents of the change said it would have tightened up the damage awarding process and kept plaintiffs from recovering twice for the same injury.

Melissa Landry, Executive Director of Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch Group, said the legislation would have provided more insight into the damage award process.

"We are very disappointed that the Senate Committee failed to pass HB 477," she said.

"This is a common sense bill that requires the basic disclosure of information that would help stop abuse in Louisiana's asbestos litigation system."

Senators voting for HB477 were Conrad Appel, R–Metairie, and Jack Donahue, R –Mandeville. Senators voting against the bill were Dan Claitor, R–Baton Rouge; Danny Martiny, R–Metairie; Ed Murray, D–New Orleans; and Rick Ward, D–Port Allen. Committee chairman Ben Nevers, D –Bogalusa, did not vote.

Louisiana would have been the first state to pass such legislation.

Landy said that a lack of transparency that exists between asbestos bankruptcy trusts and courts allows some personal injury lawyers to recover twice for the same injury, "enriching themselves and their clients at the expense of those asbestos victims are truly deserving of compensation."

"That's just wrong," she said. "We need to be doing everything we can to stop double recovery and windfall lawyers' fees- not encouraging them."

Landry said her group is looking forward to supporting a similar bill next year.

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