First-of-its-kind bill enacted in Iowa forces asbestos lawyers to pare usual list of defendants
By John O’Brien
DES MOINES, Iowa (Legal Newsline) – It took a couple of months longer than expected, but Iowa is now the first state to pass a law that reins in a certain practice by asbestos lawyers.
SF 2337, signed Monday by Gov. Kim Reynolds, forces lawyers to prove why they name certain defendants when filing asbestos and silica lawsuits. Traditionally, lawyers have named dozens – sometimes hundreds – of defendants that are then forced to spend court costs and attorney fees to get themselves dismissed.
Lawmakers approved the measure in late March but the coronavirus pandemic delayed signing of the bill into law until now.
Under the bill, plaintiffs suing companies over claimed exposure to asbestos and silica would have to establish a basis for the allegation against specific defendants.
Forms “specifying the evidence that provides the basis for each claim against each defendant” would have to be filed with the court, while the plaintiff would need to identify his or her specific relationship to each defendant.
“The Iowa bill is first-of-its-kind legislation to address rampant over-naming in asbestos lawsuits,” Shook, Hardy & Bacon lawyer Mark Behrens previously told Legal Newsline.
“Some plaintiff attorneys have adopted the practice of suing first and discovering the facts later.”
Behrens, who lobbied for the legislation, says many defendants named repeatedly in asbestos lawsuits are dismissed with little or no payment to plaintiffs.
“In the recent bankruptcy filing of ON Marine, for example, the maker of molds used in steel mills told the bankruptcy court that the company had been named in over 182,000 asbestos tort suits and that 95% of those claims were dismissed without payment,” Behrens said.
“Over-naming is a big and growing problem in asbestos litigation. Other states will be tackling this issue next year.”
Other provisions of the bill include requirements that a plaintiff identify each source of exposure, all premises where it occurred, and the manner of each exposure.
From Legal Newsline: Reach editor John O’Brien at email@example.com.