BATON ROUGE, La. (Legal Newsline) - A bill that would limit where lawsuits involving latent diseases can be brought narrowly passed a Louisiana House of Representatives committee earlier this week.
HB482, sponsored by Rob Shadoin, R-Ruston, would limit the ability of plaintiffs to bring latent disease cases, such as asbestos-related mesothelioma, to the jurisdiction where the alleged exposure took place.
The bill narrowly passed the House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure in a 7-5 vote. Similar legislation that was introduced in the 2012 session failed to make it out of the same committee.
The bill would not limit the ability of claimants to bring suit, but would ensure that the exposure took place in the judicial district where the lawsuit is brought and in the case of exposure in multiple parishes a venue could be agreed upon that would be convenient for both parties.
Melissa Landry, executive director of Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch, said the bill would limit what she calls "venue shopping" in which plaintiffs attorneys seek out courts that may be perceived to be more likely to grant awards in such cases.
"I think in (passing this) they acknowledge and recognize that venue shopping Louisiana is a problem that needs to be fixed," she said.
Landry said the bill is more of a compromise than the 2012 legislation and is likely to see more support.
"We did make some changes in the specifics of this bill to address some of the concerns that had been expressed by plaintiffs attorneys. So we are trying to work with everyone to ensure that this is a fair bill that will achieve the goal to prevent venue shopping in Louisiana, but to do so in a way that will not take away the rights of any plaintiffs and certainly to recover for legitimate damages," she said.
The bill is scheduled for full debate on the House floor on Wednesday, April 9.
Plaintiffs attorneys from law firms specializing in asbestos litigation, including New Orleans-based Landry & Swarr and Harrel & Nowak of New Orleans and the Baton Rouge office of Baron & Budd, did not respond to requests for comment on this story.