Wisconsin Mesothelioma Lawsuits May Be Impacted by State Budget Bill

Legislation being fast tracked through the Wisconsin legislature may deny some individuals who developed mesothelioma from asbestos exposure the ability to pursue compensation for their injuries.

The legislation has been narrowly written to specifically apply to Crown Cork and Seal Co., which has paid out more than $500 million after purchasing and merging with Mundet Cork Co. in 1963, which made asbestos.

The provision, which has been inserted into the state budget, exempts companies from liability in asbestos lawsuits for the actions of smaller entities they acquired before 1972. Supporters say that it is designed to protect jobs in the state, but it could also affect those with claims against companies other than Crown.

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According to a report in the Wisconsin State Journal, Debra Johnson is speaking out against the bill because it could bar her husband’s mesothelioma lawsuit over exposure to asbestos in the boiler room of a hospital that is now defunct. Methodist Hospital, where Johnson’s husband worked, was later absorbed by Meriter Hospital, which could be insulated from liability by the legislation.

Similar measures have been passed in 10 other states to protect Crown Cork and Seal, Co., and officials for the company indicate that no other entity has used the provision to avoid liability.

Mesothelioma is rare form of cancer caused asbestos exposure, which is almost always fatal. It can occur from direct exposure to the toxic fibers or indirectly through family members who worked with the material.

The cancer attacks the lining of the chest and lung, and causes symptoms like shortness of breath, chest wall pain and weight loss. It is often not detected until decades after the exposure, when it is already in an advanced stage.

Mesothelioma litigation is the longest-running mass tort in the history of the United States. There have been more than 600,000 plaintiffs who have filed cases since the first asbestos lawsuit was filed in 1929, and estimates suggest that payouts to individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related injuries may one day reach a combined total of more than $200 billion.


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