Controversial Wisconsin Asbestos Bill Passed in Senate and Assembly

In response to a controversial vote in the Wisconsin State Senate on March 17, opponents of an asbestos-related bill gathered to urge Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to stop the proposal from becoming law.

The bill, which passed in the Assembly on March 20, will require plaintiffs in asbestos-exposure cases to disclose the number of businesses their attorneys intend to sue. The bill is extremely divisive and is reminiscent of the FACT Act (Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency); supporters argued that the bill was necessary to prevent fraudulent claims, while opponents saw the bill as a way to discourage claimants from filing lawsuits.

Governor Walker will consider the proposal now that it has passed in the Assembly. “I haven’t looked at the particulars of the bill, but as I understand it, it’s really about keeping trial attorneys from double dipping,” he said.

Opponents, a group which includes Democrats and veterans, argue that the proposed law would delay compensation and deny justice for victims. Since it’s not uncommon for those with mesothelioma to succumb to the disease within a year of their diagnosis, many may pass away before a verdict is reached.

“If you think that the bill is protecting the rights of victims, it is not. It is about protecting corporations,” said Renee Simpson, state commander of the Wisconsin Veterans of Foreign Wars. Simpson’s father passed away only nine months after his mesothelioma diagnosis.

Proponents say the bill is necessary to prevent plaintiffs from filing numerous claims. Steve Chesna, the state commander of AMVETS, supports what he sees as the bill’s aim to ensure “valuable resources are not depleted by unscrupulous lawyers convincing clients to double and triple dip for one individual for one claim.”

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