Enact bill protecting victims from personal injury lawyers
While our courts continue to expand liability beyond the actual manufacturers of asbestos-containing products (“Court upholds verdict of $3 million for widow,” Buffalo News, July 10), it is imperative that policies are put in place to protect the money set aside for injured plaintiffs and their families.
The truth is that litigation bankrupted most producers of asbestos long ago, and in the process courts formed multibillion-dollar trusts to pay out future liability claims.
At the same time, unscrupulous personal injury trial lawyers began defrauding the system by making inconsistent claims as they sued peripheral – yet deep-pocketed – businesses and also recovered from the bankruptcy trusts. Therein lies the problem: lawyers allege different circumstances to get payouts from both the trusts and the solvent companies. In fact, in the case of Rochester-based Garlock Sealing Technologies, a federal judge found such inconsistencies in 15 out of the 15 cases the court reviewed. Following this revelation, Garlock sued the plaintiff’s firms involved, accusing them of racketeering.
In order to protect victims’ funds from double dipping, New York must enact meaningful reform to the litigation process. A bill introduced by Buffalo-area Assemblyman Robin Schimminger would do just that. The proposed legislation aims to root out fraud in the process by requiring plaintiffs’ lawyers to disclose their trust claims and make that claim information available to a jury before ever entering the courtroom. This transparency would ensure more money is left for the victims, and not snatched up by the lawyers.
Government Affairs Manager
Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York