Jackson Kelly Public Affairs Group facilitates WV's adoption of Asbestos Trust Claims Act
Act protects WV based companies from additional litigation costs
March 31, 2015
Jackson Kelly's Kelley Goes and Danielle Swann were part of a bi-partisan team that facilitated the drafting and passage of the Act that minimizes the risk of businesses facing asbestos lawsuits from being responsible for similar costs related to other companies' defunct operations.
Senate Bill 411 mandates a coordinated approach for all asbestos claims, requires the up-front disclosure of any bankruptcy trust claims and establishes medical criteria procedures. In short, more than 100 WV businesses went bankrupt because of asbestos-related liability and have subsequently created a "trust" for payment of asbestos-related damages. Before the passage of the Act, however, plaintiffs could pursue additional payment from the more than 8,500 solvent WV companies that were also named as asbestos defendants without being required to disclose trust claims which in some cases resulted in the suppression of evidence in asbestos actions and potential fraud. The goal of the Bill was to ensure that the process was fair to the trusts, the companies doing business now and the people who have been affected by exposure to asbestos.
"The Bill was drafted based on legislation that had passed in other states," Swann said. "Our (Swann and Goes) involvement in the negotiations were to tailor it to the West Virginia legal system." Goes said the importance of the bill can't be underestimated. "Now, there are insurers who have paid millions over the years because of these claims," she said. "This bill will help eliminate that. It also will lower the cost of doing business in West Virginia. As for existing employers who have asbestos claims on going, this will help resolve those claims so they can move on with business. The bottom line is that you encourage people to do business when you manage the legal questions. With law, the ultimate goal is to provide clear rules of the road."
Details of the Act, which becomes law on June 9, 2015, and its implications on West Virginia businesses can be found here.