New Asbestos Trust Claim Disclosure and Evidence Statute A.R.S. § 12-782 enacted

The Arizona legislature has approved House Bill 2603 by a Republican majority, making it harder for the workers to file asbestos lawsuits. The Bill was passed on April 9, 2015, thus amending Arizona Revised Statute (A.R.S.) § 12-782, that deals with asbestos-related personal injury actions.[1] The U.S. Chamber of Commerce backs the measure, which requires attorneys representing sick workers to disclose whether they have filed claims with bankruptcy trusts as well as various companies who used asbestos in building and industrial materials. These new set of rules apply to all actions filed on and after the date of effectiveness, that is July 3, 2015.

The new A.R.S. § 12-782, is proposedly intended to prevent plaintiff attorneys from excessively claiming recoveries from asbestos trusts. It requires disclosure of claim filings, provides an ongoing duty to report claims, addresses trust privilege claims and establishes other rules and procedures.

Both the plaintiff as well as the defendant has several rights and responsibilities as outlined under the new enactment. More specifically, within forty-five days of the defendant’s answer, the plaintiff must affirmatively disclose all of his personal injury claims that have been submitted to the asbestos trusts set up to compensate plaintiff and/or all the personal injury claims [§ 12-782(1)(A)]. The plaintiff shall further provide defendant documents related to the proof of the claim, the trust, the settlement of the claim, the amount claimed by the plaintiff, and a list of claims that is reasonably anticipated to be filed, including the anticipated amount [§ 12-782(1)(B)(1)]. On submission of a new claim, or while receiving a new information, the plaintiff has an ongoing duty of supplementing such disclosures [§ 12-782(1)(C)].

Moreover, the trial courts must stay proceedings once plaintiff identifies any claims that should reasonably be filed under the claim [§ 12-782(1)(D)]. Also, claims of privilege do not apply to asbestos trust claim documents [§§ 12-782(E)-(F)].

On the other hand, on identification of an asbestos trust other than the plaintiff, defendant may move the court to stay proceedings and order plaintiff to file a trust claim if the defendants [§ 12-782(1)(J)].

Also, plaintiff’s submission of a claim to a trust may be considered by a jury to determine liability or apportion fault and may be used to support a finding that exposure to the products at issue in the asbestos trust were a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s injury. And any compensation received from an asbestos trust after conclusion of a trial is credited against a judgment in plaintiff’s favor [§12-782(1)(M)].

The new law will apply retroactively to all actions that are pending on its effective date [§ 12-782(2)].

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