GAYLE: Asbestos reform needed to protect legitimate claims
Double dips are good when you’re talking about ice cream. Unfortunately, over the last several years double dipping of another kind has allowed unscrupulous personal injury lawyers to enrich themselves by abusing our lawsuit system.
Simply put, some personal injury lawyers are gaming the lawsuit system, manipulating it by “double dipping” in asbestos litigation so that they can increase their profits. The Texas Legislature is right to take a closer look at ways to rein in this fraud and abuse and make sure our courts are used for justice, not greed.
“Double dipping” in asbestos cases occurs when personal injury lawyers sue a company and claim its products harmed their clients and also file claims with asbestos trusts telling a different story and blaming other products for the same exact harm.
This abuse of our lawsuit system allows personal injury lawyers to get multiple payouts for the same injury while reducing the resources available in the trusts to compensate those who have been truly injured by asbestos exposure – many of whom are veterans.
Our state has long been a leader in lawsuit reform, and putting an end to the abuses in asbestos litigation is something that I believe can and should find broad support at the Capitol and in communities all across our state.
A decade ago, Texas passed comprehensive asbestos litigation reform that eliminated bogus claims while ensuring that truly sick Texans could have their lawsuits resolved in a timely manner.
Undeterred in their quest to enrich themselves by abusing the lawsuit system, some personal injury lawyers pulled new tricks out of their sleeve, exploiting loopholes in the system that allow this “double dipping” to occur. It’s a problem not unique to Texas – in fact, many media outlets have reported on the asbestos double dip in recent years.
Texas lawmakers are advancing House Bill 1492 by Rep. Doug Miller and Senate Bill 491 by Sen. Charles Schwertner to stop this abuse. The proposal would require a plaintiff’s lawyer in an asbestos lawsuit to file claims with a bankruptcy trust, where injured individuals will receive the fastest compensation, before they can pursue additional litigation. It delivers transparency and discourages double dipping.
We can all agree that Texans harmed by asbestos deserve compensation and they deserve it be delivered fairly and swiftly. Greed is a great motivator, though, and these lawsuits can be extremely lucrative for lawyers. So, whether a claim is filed today or years from now, an injured Texan shouldn’t have to worry about resources reserved for paying claims in the asbestos trusts being depleted or reduced by greedy personal injury lawyers.
The reform measures from Rep. Miller and Sen. Schwertner are the sort of smart-minded and balanced legislation worthy of bipartisan support.
After all, two scoops are better than one for ice cream, but it’s not something we should allow our courts and personal injury lawyers to dip into.
DeWitt Gayle is Chairman of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas (CALACTX)