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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Iowa legislation targets asbestos lawyers who blame more defendants than they can prove

State Court

By Legal News Line | Feb 21, 2020

Iowacapitol
Iowa Capitol building | Wikipedia

DES MOINES, Iowa (Legal Newsline) – Plaintiffs claiming injuries from asbestos and silica would have to establish a basis for suing each defendant under a bill the Senate Judiciary Committee passed on Feb. 18. 

Such suits generally name dozens of defendants, often exceeding 100, and the House Judiciary Committee had passed a parallel bill on Feb. 6. 

It would require a complaint to include a sworn form, “specifying the evidence that provides the basis for each claim against each defendant.” 

A plaintiff would have to identify his or her specific relationship to each defendant, whereas current law only requires “the identity of the defendant or defendants against whom the plaintiff asserts a claim.” 

The measure would further require a plaintiff to identify each source of exposure, all premises where it occurred, and the manner of each exposure. 

He or she would identify each product, “whether from a bankrupt entity or otherwise, to which the plaintiff was exposed.” 

That provision could curb the practice of recovering damages from both civil courts and bankruptcy trusts by alleging different sources of exposure. 

A plaintiff would also have to identify all current and former employers. 

Current law only requires “employer of the exposed person,” possibly subjecting a single employer to liability that other employers should share. 

The bill’s high standards would also apply to plaintiffs who allege exposure through persons close to them. 

They would identify each person through whom they were exposed, state the relationship, and file a sworn information form for each one. 

“The court shall dismiss the asbestos or silica action without prejudice as to each defendant for whom the plaintiff lacks reliable defendant specific evidence of sufficient exposure to asbestos or silica to create a reasonable inference that the plaintiff is plausibly entitled to relief,” the bill reads. 

It provides that if representations supporting a claim are materially false, a defendant might move to strike the plaintiff’s pleadings and to award attorney fees, costs, and any other relief the court determines is just and proper. 

Legislators face an April 21 deadline for action on all bills, subject to change. 

Asbestos websites report a low level of asbestos litigation in Iowa. 

Some sites report that in 2014, Wright County jurors awarded $4 million in compensation and $2.5 million in punitive damages in a wrongful death suit. 

Iowa’s Supreme Court reversed the verdict in 2018, due to misconduct on the plaintiff’s side at closing argument. 

Asbestos firm SMWM, in St. Louis, pitches for Iowa clients online. 

“Power plant workers and farming equipment workers in Iowa have the highest risk of mesothelioma and lung cancer due to asbestos exposure,” SMWM states on its website. 

“Iowa was home to manufacturing plants, paper mills, construction sites and other industrial settings where asbestos exposure occurred.” 

It states that many families of these workers have an increased risk of cancer because the workers carried fibers home on their clothes and bodies. 

It states in italics, “You do not have to file your claim in the state in which you live.”

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Iowa State Legislature