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Monday, April 16, 2012

Support OH HB 380: Promote Transparency in Ohio's Legal System

While maybe not sounding or seeming as important, pressing or appealing as some of the other bills in the Ohio legislature, you can be sure HB 380 is equally important as it is a much needed step in reforming some of the judicial process in our state.

HB 380 will, "enact sections 2307.951, 2307.952, 2307.953, and 2307.954 of the Revised Code to require claimants in asbestos tort actions to make certain disclosures pertaining to asbestos trust claims that have been submitted to asbestos trust entities for the purpose of compensating the claimant for asbestos exposure."  (HB 380).

In short, by enacting safeguard's against frivolous lawsuits, the unfair practice of double-dipping, inconsistent claims, incorrect and fraudulently obtained a award payments and unscrupulous attorney's, HB 380 will promote integrity, uniformity, fairness and transparency for asbestos related litigation in Ohio.

By enacting these safeguard's, HB 380 will also assure the funds from the asbestos trusts are serving the intended purpose of aiding and compensating individuals affected by legitimate work related asbestos illnesses.

Currently, Cuyahoga County is the only court jurisdiction that requires claimants to notify defendants of any other work related asbestos litigation.  HB 380 will require claimants to identify, "all existing asbestos trust claims made by or on behalf of the claimant and all trust claims material pertaining to each identified asbestos trust claim."

Testifying before the OH Senate, Mark Behrens, a partner in the Public Policy Group of Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P., in Washington, D.C., stated...
"Because the trusts operate opaquely and make little effort to compare their claims amongst each other or to claims made in the tort system, the trust system is fertile ground for inequity," he told the Senate committee.

"While involved in trust governance," he informed the committee, "plaintiffs' attorneys are also actively engaged in soliciting trusts claims through television and Internet advertising, filing trust claims, and receiving contingent fees from trusts' payments."

"Abuse of the trust process has the potential to impact both defendants and bankruptcy trusts, as starkly demonstrated in the Ohio case of Kananian v. Lorillard Tobacco Co.," Behrens told the senators.

"As I'm sure you're aware, in that case, Judge Harry Hanna barred a prominent California asbestos personal injury law firm from practicing before his court after he found that the firm and one of its partners failed to abide by the rules of the court proscribing dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation.

"Judge Hanna's ruling received national attention for exposing 'one of the darker corners of tort abuse' in asbestos litigation: inconsistencies between allegations made in open court and those submitted to trusts set up by bankrupt companies to pay asbestos-related claims."
Behrens also cited a report from a company where out of 255 randomly sampled claims against an asbestos trust, only 19 had disclosed their exposure to asbestos. And Behrens noted in another case, after continued foot dragging by a plaintiff's legal counsel to comply with numerous requests for discovery, of nine (9) other trust claims showing conflicting exposure periods and discrepancies in legal positions taken between the courts and the trusts.

 The funds in the asbestos trusts must be protected and used to compensate those who truly and unfortunately deserve them, not to pad the pockets of less than desirable ambulance chasing attorneys and individuals trying to game the system. It is only through the transparency enacted through HB 380 that you can help stop these abuses.

HB 380 has passed the Ohio House and currently sits in the OH Senate Judiciary Committee. Please contact the below listed State Senators and ask them to support HB 380....

State Senator Gayle Manning (District 13)
Phone: (614) 644-7613
Email: Click Here

State Senator John Eklund (District 18)
Phone: (614) 644-7718
Email: Click Here

State Senator Frank LaRose (District 27)
Phone: (614) 466-4823
Email: Click Here

State Senator Scott Oelslager (District 29)
Phone: (614) 466-0626
Email: Click Here

To keep track of the status and results of your calls, please click here to fill out the HB 380 Contact Form to record the response of your call(s) to the above State Senator's offices.

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