West Virginia Senate passes Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Claims Transparency Act

The affect the bill may have on those previously exposed to asbestos dust is unclear.

The danger of asbestos dust exposure is clear and frightening. Asbestos exposure has caused cancer in untold numbers. Mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other fatal diseases directly related to contact with asbestos dust have caused hardship to families across the U.S. According to the World Health Organization, half of all occupational cancers are asbestos related. West Virginia is a state particularly hard-hit, as jobs in mining, rail, and steel mills are susceptible to cancers stemming from asbestos exposure.

That has led to significant lawsuits against asbestos manufacturers. It has also started worry that funds owed to injured workers and those exposed may run out, even though there are currently $30 billion in asbestos trust funds nationwide that are set up to pay out claims.

In West Virginia, the state Senate recently passed several measures taken to ensure that funds designated to go towards cancer victims who fell ill from asbestos exposure will remain viable. The Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Claims Transparency Act and the Asbestos and Silica Claims Priorities Act unanimously passed the state Senate on March 4. It will now go to the House of Delegates for approval. In a public statement issued when it passed the Senate, Senator Tom Takubo said "[w]e must ensure funds are healthy five to 10 years from now to help pay for medical bills and family expenses, and this legislation will allow us to do that."

Not everyone is in favor the bill, however. If it passes, some companies that manufactured or used asbestos may be let off the hook in future claims. Others also argue that the bill is at best unnecessary, as current case management in West Virginia is working well.

The bill also creates medical criteria for asbestos claimants and establishes statute of limitations, a significant issue as many asbestos claims can stem from exposure to asbestos decades ago.

Asbestos-related legal claims

Asbestos claims, while well-litigated, are a complex area of the law. The medical research is clear that exposure to asbestos causes cancer. Companies that used or manufactured asbestos are responsible for paying out damages to those who fell ill because of exposure.

However, in legal proceedings with so much at stake, claims need to be handled by an experienced attorney familiar with asbestos litigation. In addition, because many workers exposed to asbestos dust have since moved, retired or passed away, tracking down the responsible party is not always an easy task. Currently, many asbestos claims are filed by surviving family members. Should the current bill become law, it is not clear that family members will have the same legal rights moving forward.

At James F. Humphreys & Associates, L.C., our attorneys are familiar with asbestos litigation and have a track record of helping those exposed obtain needed money damages. If you or a loved one were exposed to asbestos, contact our firm as soon as possible, as with changes in the law and limited resources, asbestos claims are only becoming more complicated for those affected.

Keywords: Asbestos litigation, mesothelioma, asbestos-related legal claims, West Virginia, James F. Humphreys & Associates, Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Claims Transparency Act.