Texas Mesothelioma Lawsuit Requirements May Be Eased by Legislation

New legislation passed by the Texas Senate would ease the requirements imposed on plaintiffs who file mesothelioma lawsuits over asbestos exposure, putting Texas in line with the requirements of most other states. However, the House version of the bill is still pending, and faces opposition from business and industry groups.

Mesothelioma is a rare, but often fatal, form of cancer that affects the linings of internal organs such as the lungs, heart, and stomach. It is caused by the inhalation or ingestion of asbestos fibers, but is often not diagnosed until 20 to 50 years after exposure.

Plaintiffs who currently file Texas mesothelioma lawsuits face some of the most difficult burdens of proof in the country, which are hard to meet given the long latency period for the disease.

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Under a 2007 Texas Supreme Court decision in Borg-Warner Corp. v. Flore, plaintiffs must not only establish that they were exposed to asbestos as a result of the defendant’s negligence, but also are required to establish that the exposure was sufficient enough to be instrumental in causing mesothelioma.

Senate Bill 1123, which was proposed by Sen. Robert Duncan, alters the standard for the amount of asbestos exposure necessary to pursue a case. It only require that the mesothelioma plaintiff establish that the defendant contributed to their cumulative exposure and was more than purely trivial when considering the frequency of the exposure, the regularity of the exposure and the proximity of the plaintiff to the source of the asbestos.

The standard of proof contained in the bill matches the burden imposed in most other states, rolling back the more restrictive burdens placed on plaintiffs in Texas.

A companion bill in the House, HB 1811, is currently pending before the Texas House Committee on the Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence, where it faces stiff opposition from tort reform advocates and industry lobbyists.

Asbestos litigation is the largest and longest running mass tort in the history of the United States, with the first lawsuit filed in 1929. More than 600,000 people have filed asbestos lawsuits against about 6,000 different defendants who manufactured, sold or used asbestos-containing products.

As more and more people are diagnosed with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases as years pass since their exposure to the toxic substance, it has been estimated that the total cost of asbestos lawsuits could eventually reach $200 billion.


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