It's Time to Bring Transparency to the Legal System in New York

Date: January 17, 2017

New York business owners involved in asbestos related litigation might see some relief if the legislature acts on S.2511/No Same As. This bill would cure a procedural deficiency in New York courts that obscures transparency in asbestos civil actions and asbestos federal compensation trusts. 

Right now, plaintiffs claiming harm from asbestos can elect two avenues to file an asbestos-related lawsuit. They may (1) file a lawsuit against a trust, set up by manufacturers of asbestos and intended to compensate individuals who have experienced asbestos-related problems as a result of their product; and (2) file a lawsuit (tort) against a solvent company that retails, distributes or makes products that may later be used in conjunction with asbestos related products.

Companies defending against the latter type of lawsuit typically have multiple degrees of separation from primary manufacturers. Small businesses often with little connection to the asbestos causing product are drawn into costly litigation when plaintiffs elect the second approach. 

Under the current system, there is no disclosure between the systems. Lawsuits against trusts and lawsuits against solvent companies are treated separately by the systems, which makes it ripe for fraud and robs funds available for the truly sick and injured.

The proposed bill would allow business owners to see whether a claimant has already been compensated by the manufacturer’s trust. This would increase transparency and deter plaintiffs from pursuing double payment through the tort system, thereby saving small business owners money from defending against lawsuits and paying out for unfair settlements. Many small business owners are supportive of the legislation as a way to cut down on frivolous litigation and unfair liability settlements, which can have serious financial consequences for businesses caught up in lawsuits.

“[This bill] makes sure that small business owners aren’t left with liability for which they shouldn’t be responsible,” said Tom Stebbins, executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York.

For more information about lawsuit reform related to asbestos trusts, please visit the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York


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