Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Ohio Republicans Pass Industry Asbestos Comp Bill

Tired of waiting for the U.S. Congress to negotiate national asbestos compensation legislation, the Republican-controlled Ohio state House of Representatives has gone ahead with its own bill. And guess who it favors:
The bill is retroactive, meaning that half or more of the 40,000 asbestos cases now in Ohio courts could be dismissed because plaintiffs do not qualify for compensation under the new medical standards.

"The eyes of the country are looking at the Statehouse in Columbus right now," said Steve Schneider, Midwest region vice president of the American Insurance Association.

"No other state has gotten as far in the debate or legislative process as has Ohio," Schneider said.

Supporters say the legislation will weed out those who are not sick, clearing the way for those who have become ill to be compensated quickly by the courts.

But opponents call the legislation a recipe for more disaster for victims already traumatized from exposure to asbestos.

The bill is written with the purpose of eliminating as many asbestos claims as possible, said attorney Thomas Bevan, whose Northfield firm represents many of Ohio's plaintiffs.

"This bill is a hose job," Bevan said. "We would be the first state in the country to bar most of its citizens from filing asbestos claims when they have injuries."