Following a decision issued earlier this month by the Ohio Supreme Court, over 30,000 asbestos lawsuits have been dismissed by county courts in the state.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled on October 15, 2008 that a 2004 state law imposing strict requirements on plaintiffs in asbestos lawsuits can be applied retroactively to cases that were already filed when the law passed.
Before the Ohio law was enacted on September 2, 2004, thousands of asbestos lawsuits were filed by plaintiffs seeking to avoid the new requirements, which were designed to reduce asbestos litigation in the state.
The law requires that plaintiffs provide testimony from medical experts at trial who personally treated the claimant. In addition, the law only allows cases to proceed if there is specific medical evidence that asbestos exposure has caused mesothelioma or another serious health problem.
The 30,000 dismissed lawsuits involved cases filed by individuals who had not been diagnosed with mesothelioma or exhibited any signs of an asbestos-related injury. The courts had already determined that the cases did not meet the requirements of the 2004 law, which resulted in the mass dismissal days after the Ohio Supreme Court ruling.
Although the cases have been dismissed, the plaintiffs are able to refile their cases in the future if they exhibit symptoms of mesothelioma or an injury that can be established under the 2004 law.
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer found in the lining of the chest and lung which is caused by exposure to asbestos fibers. It is most commonly found to occur among people who worked with asbestos in the 1970s, before it was banned. It is also commonly found to occur among family members of these workers, who carried the fibers home on their clothes or in their hair.
In most cases, mesothelioma is not diagnosed until the cancer has reached a very advanced stage, many years after the exposure. As a result, the median survival time after diagnosis is often under a year.
Hundreds of thousands of people throughout the United States have filed asbestos lawsuits involving mesothelioma and other injuries related to exposure to fibers. The first lawsuit was filed in 1929, and some experts have suggested that the total cost of asbestos litigation in the United States could eventually reach $200 billion.