Republicans in the House and Senate have sent a bill to the governor with new rules for asbestos-related lawsuits. Republican Representative Brian Lohse of Bondurant said some attorneys name too many defendants in lawsuits.
“This is done for a plethora of reasons, most legitimate, some not,” Lohse said. “The over-naming of defendants can lead to the litigation moving more slowly and ineffectively.”
If the bill becomes law, Iowans would have to identify each current and past work site as well as the frequency of their exposure to asbestos. Representative Karin Derry of Johnston is among the Democrats who opposed the bill. She told colleagues it was because of personal experience — her dad was diagnosed with lung cancer.’
“We were told by the doctor this was the kind of lung cancer caused by asbestos,” Derry said. “My dad did not know how or when or where he had been exposed to asbestos and at age 62, he died.”
Representative Brian Meyer, a Democrat from Des Moines, said 80 percent of mesothelioma cases are veterans. He unsuccessfully tried to exclude Iowa veterans from the bill’s new requirements.
“Mesothelioma is a deadly disease and it’s only caused by one thing: asbestos,” Meyer said. “And it lays latent for 20-50 years within your body.”
Lohse said the bill will lead to the proper identification of the companies responsible for the asbestos exposure.
“The climate today, in these cases especially, lead to a problem with over-naming,” Lohse said, “a problem that drives up the cost of defense, drives up the cost of insurance.”
Lohse, Meyer and Derry are all attorneys and they were the only members of the House to speak during debate of the bill. Senate debate was limited, but it drew criticism from Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo who is a veteran and a retired John Deere employee.
“I guess I come from a shop of working-class people and I know when something stinks and this does, so I’m not going to legalese any of you about,” Dotzler said. “You know it stinks and I know it stinks.”
Senator Zach Nunn, a Republican from Bondurant, said the bill is necessary because there are too many asbestos-related lawsuits that name too many defendants.
“Just in a shotgun approach to try and say: ‘How many of these individuals might settle with my attorney?'” Nunn said.
This bill adds to a 2017 law that set new deadlines for providing details in asbestos-related lawsuits. More than 2700 Iowans have died of asbestos-related cancer between 1999 and 2017.