Asbestos Lawsuits: Court Ruling Called a Victory for Thousands
A Court ruling regarding asbestos lawsuits is said to be a victory for thousands of pending cases in Florida.
A Florida Fourth District Court of Appeals ruled that it is unconstitutional to use the Asbestos and Silica Compensation Fairness Act to eliminate existing vested rights in asbestos lawsuits pending when the Act took effect July 1, 2005.
The Act, a state law meant to cut the number of people who are eligible to sue for damages due to asbestos exposure, sets impairment standards for Plaintiffs. According to the Act, before people with nonmalignant asbestosis can file a lawsuit, they must have lost at least 20 percent breathing capacity. In addition, those suffering with lung cancer must also have asbestosis and diminished breathing capacity so any effects of smoking can be discounted.
However, this Court ruling states that: The act in its entirety may not constitutionally be applied to require claimants with accrued causes of action for damages resulting from exposure to asbestos to plead and prove that any malignancy or physical impairment results from their exposure to asbestos. Instead, their accrued causes of action required them to show only that they suffered from an injury from an asbestos-related, nonmalignant disease.
Although this ruling is said to cover cases filed before the Act took effect, observers claim it means the Act cannot be applied to anyone with a disease caused by asbestos exposure, even if they did not sue before the law went into effect.
According to the Florida appeals court, other provisions of the Act related to retroactivity could not be invalidated.