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April 16, 2009 (512) 463-0300

SENATE BILL WOULD ALLOW EXPEDITION OF ASBESTOS CANCER CASES

Sen. Duncan
Sen. Robert Duncan of Lubbock explains his bill that aims to expedite suits from people stricken with mesothelioma.

(AUSTIN) — The Senate gave tentative approval Thursday to a measure intended to create a more reasonable standard under which patients with mesothelioma, a deadly form of lung cancer caused by asbestos, can claim cause. While Texas at one time had the most lenient standard of proof in the nation, said Lubbock Senator Robert Duncan, a recent Texas Supreme Court ruling has made it too difficult for mesothelioma patients to prove the source of their cancer. Duncan's bill, SB 1123, would move Texas to the same standard of causation used by most other states. "We're not going to go back to the most liberal standard in the country for mesothelioma," he said. "We're going to adopt the most widely accepted standard in the country."

The Texas Supreme court ruled in 2007 on a case involving a claim of asbestosis, which is damage to the lungs caused by asbestos but has similar symptoms to other lung diseases. The court ruled that to prove causation in an asbestosis case, plaintiffs must show how much asbestos they had been exposed to. Since that time, that same standard has been applied to mesothelioma cases. Mesothelioma, however, can have a latency period of decades, making it nearly impossible for patients to go back as much as 40 years to find qualitative proof of the exact amount of exposure to asbestos. Duncan's bill would use what is known as the Lohrmann standard, which requires a plaintiff in a mesothelioma case to prove that exposure to asbestos was frequent, regular, and proximal. It would not change the standard for asbestosis cases. The bill is likely to face a final vote Friday.

The Senate also tentatively passed a bill aimed at giving counties more money for transportation projects. SB 294, by Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa of McAllen, would permit county commissioner's courts to raise vehicle registration fees by $50 and increases the maximum amount for the optional county fee for transportation projects from $10 to $15. The Legislature passed a similar bill last session, that piloted this program in two south Texas counties, and Hinojosa said he wants to give the same options to all 254 counties in the state. The bill was amended to stipulate that if SB 588, which would allow counties to hold elections to increase certain fees for transportation projects, becomes law, fees levied under SB 294 could not stack on top of fees levied under that bill.

The Senate will reconvene Friday, April 17 at 10 a.m.

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.

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