Congress examines asbestos; Lawmakers may set criteria to limit suits to sickest patients

Charleston Daily Mail
Wednesday, December 4, 2002

Congress soon could act to set medical criteria for pursuing asbestos claims, limiting lawsuits to the sickest plaintiffs, in what would be lawmakers' most significant action in decades to deal with the ballooning number of asbestos liability cases.

The Republican takeover of Congress, combined with a sympathetic White House, could revive efforts to enact changes to the civil justice system, including the areas of asbestos and medical malpractice.

Proponents of overhauling the asbestos litigation system clearly are readying their arguments, adding to their rhetorical arsenal Tuesday a report detailing the costs of lawsuits to American businesses and their workers.

. . .

"I expect Republicans will throw every kind of tort proposal they ever thought of out there," said Joanne Doroshow of the Center for Justice and Democracy, a group that opposes liability limits.

The Supreme Court has long prodded Congress to take legislative action to deal with the "elephantine mass of asbestos cases," in the words of a 1999 decision.

While a Republican Congress might make passage of a bill more likely, there seems to be bipartisan interest in addressing asbestos liability. The Senate Judiciary Committee this fall held a hearing into the issue, with both the then- Democratic chairman and the ranking Republican agreeing they "want a solution here."

For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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