Bill # and Title: HB 1061 – Asbestos Litigation
Author: Rep. Matt Lehman (R-Berne)
Summary: Urges the Legislative Council to assign to the appropriate interim study committee the topic of the appropriate statute of repose duration for certain product liability actions. Requires certain disclosures regarding asbestos bankruptcy trust claims in civil asbestos actions. Provides medical criteria to set aside and preserve the claims of asbestos and silica claimants without physical impairment, and gives priority to asbestos and silica claimants with malignant conditions and impairing nonmalignant conditions.
Chamber Position: Support
Status: Heard in the Senate Civil Law Committee, but no vote was taken.

Update/Chamber Action: The Indiana Chamber has been strongly advocating the need for this legislation with the nine-member Civil Law Committee. Coalition partners also making the case include, among others, the Indiana Manufacturers Association, Nationwide Insurance and the Insurance Institute of Indiana. The committee makeup, however, indicates a vote in favor of the trial lawyers who are opposed to this legislation, so securing support has been difficult.

The entire business coalition, including the Chamber, was signed up to testify but because of the time allotment of 20 minutes per side, only the U.S. Chamber and retired Brigadier General Jim Bauerle were allowed to speak in favor of the bill. Committee chairman Randy Head (R-Logansport) concluded the hearing with no questions being allowed to be asked of the testifiers. After the hearing, the Indiana Chamber and others held a serious discussion of this bill’s importance with Sen. Aaron Freeman (R-Indianapolis), informing him that most likely he would be the swing vote.

Senator Freeman indicated that he doesn’t like the bill and doesn’t believe that there is a problem with asbestos in Indiana. He suggested that we put together a stripped-down version with our absolute couple of must-haves, yet he made no promises. The coalition has put together a new proposal that we are working to be brought back before the committee to see how it is received. That is necessary because it is clear the prior version was not going to pass.

Those on the other side have declined to negotiate, likely not feeling the need to compromise due to the committee makeup. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect is we are confident this bill would receive a warmer reception on the Senate floor; it’s just getting it out of this committee – a group that includes several trial lawyers themselves – that is the heavy lift.

Resource: Mike Ripley at (317) 264-6883 or e-mail: [email protected]