Information, please: that's what Senate Bill 411 provides

By The West Virginia Record | Apr 1, 2015

4-1-1 is the phone number for directory assistance, or “information.”

4-1-1 is also the number of a West Virginia State Senate Bill recently signed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. It, too, is dedicated to providing information: information that will increase transparency in claims against asbestos bankruptcy trusts and promote greater fairness in the settlement of asbestos suits involving solvent firms.

“What happened [in the past] is that some of these claims that were fraudulent or frivolous bankrupted the more culpable parties,” explains Danielle Swann, an attorney with the Charleston firm Jackson Kelly who helped draft the bill. “Now, there isn’t money for those who truly are sick to recover. This will help ensure that money is available for people who actually were exposed.”

“This brings fairness to the system,” says Kelley Goes, another Jackson Kelly attorney who contributed to the bill. “It brings efficiency. It is designed to give everyone a fair shot at compensation if you are ill and worked where asbestos was used.”

“The jury will be allowed to hear about all of the plaintiff’s asbestos exposures and reach a more fully informed decision as to the cause of the person’s injuries,” comments D.C. attorney and nationally-recognized asbestos trust expert Mark Behrens. “The legislation also will promote honesty in litigation by providing a mechanism to catch unscrupulous trial lawyers who may otherwise try to tell one story about the plaintiff’s exposures to asbestos to a jury and a different story to asbestos trusts.”

Behrens predicts the bill “will help ensure that West Virginia businesses and other businesses that are sued in asbestos lawsuits in West Virginia are held liable for their fair share of the plaintiff's harm and will help those companies avoid having to pay for the fault of others.”

That's good for plaintiffs, good for defendants, and good for our state. All West Virginians benefit from an improved business climate. Sometimes, a little information can make a big difference.

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