Tens of thousands asbestos cases are coming off the books in the state of Texas, dismissed for lack of medical proof.
Judge Mark Davidson, who presides over the multidistrict litigation asbestos court in Harris County, said the 2013 Texas Legislature green-lighted the mass dismissal of cases, which had been abated since 2005.
The 79th Texas Legislature enacted Senate Bill 15 in 2005, requiring asbestos and silica plaintiffs to serve a medical report to validate their claim.
Judge Davidson said asbestosis plaintiffs who could not show a specific level of breathing disability had their claims “indefinitely abated,” creating a “deep freeze” on the mass litigation.
In 2013, House Bill 1325 became law, providing a means for those cases to be thawed and swept off the docket.
Judge Davidson says he’s dismissed around 30,000 cases statewide, estimating that 80,000 plaintiffs have had their suits disposed of … perhaps.
“There’s no way to tell how many peoples’ cases have been closed,” he added.
For the past year, courthouses around the state have been receiving courtesy copies notifying district judges that asbestos cases once belonging to their respective courts have been dismissed.
Notices of disposals come in intervals and are still being sent out.
In Jefferson County, thousands of plaintiffs had their cases dismissed by Judge Davidson.
In the 60th District Court, there is a backlog of notices waiting to be scanned into court records – a task that may require months to complete, according to a Beaumont courthouse official.
The bulk of the asbestos litigation filed in Jefferson County District Court was brought by the Beaumont law firms Provost Umphrey and Reaud Morgan & Quinn and then transferred to the 60th District Court, the court saddled with the heaviest workload of dismissed asbestos cases to scan.
The cases are being dismissed without prejudice, allowing plaintiffs to re-file their claim if they can show pulmonary disability caused by asbestos exposure.