Job-Killing Asbestos Legislation

The SE Texas Record Apr. 25, 2009, 11:35am

Water, in doses too large, can kill you.

It's an important fact that proves the preeminent rule of toxicology -- the dose makes the poison.

That's as true with water as it is with substances such as caffeine and alcohol, potentially harmful chemicals we willingly ingest. In small amounts, these chemicals aren't poisonous at all.

The Texas State Senate is looking to exempt asbestos from this scientific principle with a bill that will provoke more plaintiff lawsuits if it ever becomes law. Senate Bill 1123, which passed the chamber last week, would enable a plaintiff exposed to any asbestos to sue those who are responsible for its presence.

Virtually all of us have experienced asbestos exposure at some point in our lives. This bill's real objective is to create an immense pool of Texas " asbestos victims" who are plaintiff lawsuit candidates. That's just about everyone and that's the real point of the legislation.

In the recent past some asbestos lawyers made their bones by finding stacks and stacks of questionable asbestos plaintiffs, confronting a targeted corporation and making a heavy threat: pay us to go away or risk bankruptcy. Companies settled for big dollars. This proposed legislation makes it much easier to do much more of the same.

Corpus Christi Judge Judge Janis Jack first exposed asbestos fraud in 2005, throwing out 10,000 fraudulently diagnosed claims from her courtroom. Of the plaintiffs, 6,800 had been diagnosed with two rare diseases -- asbestosis and silicosis. She said the cases were faked, "manufactured for money."

Thanks to Judge Jack, the going got tough for some asbestos legal opportunists. Then it got tougher after the Texas Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that asbestos plaintiffs had to prove significant exposure to a defendant's product.

We've written extensively about that case, Borg-Warner v. Flores. The ruling was a restatement of common sense and sound scientific principle. This bill seeks to negate those principles with an irrational special interest law based on junk science.

Dozens of lawyers have made tens of millions off of asbestos lawsuits. This special legislation could make them richer and the state much poorer as industry soon would look to other states to build businesses and create jobs and wealth for its workers.

This dose of bad legislation is a fatal poison for progress.

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