On March 23, 2017, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed into law Iowa Senate File 376 (2017), which stands to significantly impact the future handling of asbestos-related litigation in the state. The new law first contains a section entitled the “Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Claims Transparency Act,” which requires Plaintiffs and their attorneys to disclose claims and recoveries from bankruptcy trusts established to compensate people injured from breathing in dust from asbestos-containing products manufactured or sold by now-bankrupt companies. Failure to properly disclose any claims against these asbestos trusts could force the dismissal of the litigated cases against viable defendants. Also, the new law contains a section called the “Asbestos and Silica Claims Priorities Act” which requires certain medical disclosures and other proof requirements before pursuing a claim for nonmalignant diseases. Notably, this section also provides for a “two-disease rule” meaning there are separate applicable statutes of limitations for malignant and non-malignant diseases. Finally, the law contains a section titled “Successor Corporation Asbestos-Related Liability Fairness Act,” which provides limits on claims against companies that assumed or incurs potential liabilities based upon operation of law, such as through a merger or consolidation.
Iowa joins neighboring South Dakota (SD Senate File 138, passed March 2017) as the latest in a growing number of states to enact some form of legislation aimed at curbing apparent fraud in asbestos litigation. Prior to 2017, nine other states enacted similar legislation, namely Georgia (2007); Ohio and Oklahoma (2013); Wisconsin (2014); West Virginia, Texas, and Arizona (2015); and Tennessee and Utah (2016). Similar legislation is being introduced in many other states. Also, several attempts have been made to pass the “Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency” (FACT) Act at a Federal level. Presently, H.R.906 is working its way through committees in Washington D.C. Read the new law here.
For questions regarding this legislation or other Asbestos or other Toxic Tort litigation in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin or the Dakotas, please contact OLWK Shareholder Michael M. Skram.