It Appears That Wisconsin Legislators Were “Told” By ALEC How To Draft Asbestos Lawsuits Restrictions Bill Which Is To Be Voted On In March 2014

It is well-established that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are in favor of state statutes which serve to narrow or restrict access to the courts for individuals who have developed asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma.

To this end, ALEC has pushed for legislation that would allow corporations to not let an asbestos lawsuit to proceed to trial in the court system until the person with mesothelioma, for example, files claims with the various relevant asbestos bankrupty “trust funds” (which were set up after an asbestos company went bankrupt, as many companies have done due to their asbestos legal compenation liabilities).

There are many reasons this type of legislation is not fair to that person — while serving to benefit the responsible asbestos companies which would be defendants in the court trial — with the most obvious one being that most individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma will live only 6 to 18 months from the time they are diagnosed.  Meanwhile, the asbestos bankruptcy claims filing process can take several years from start to finish for the typical occupational-exposure asbestos case.

As regards the most recent ALEC “involvement” with asbestos litigation in the court system, this time in Wisconsin, we get the following from a March 20, 2014 article, “Wisconsin Poised to Pass ALEC’s Deadly Asbestos Bill”, published on the PR Watch site (which is a service of the Center for Media and Democracy):

Wisconsin could become the latest state to narrow access to the courts for asbestos victims in a bill up for a vote on March 20, joining a national coordinated effort that can be traced back to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Rep. Andre Jacque, a member of the ALEC Civil Justice Task Force, introduced Assembly Bill 19 in April of 2013. A version of the legislation passed the Wisconsin Senate last week on a nearly party line vote, and is now before the Assembly. It resembles the ALEC “Asbestos Claims Transparency Act,” which was adopted as a “model” by members of the ALEC Civil Justice Task Force in 2007. In December of 2012, Ohio became the first state to pass the legislation. In the 2013 session, nearly identical legislation has been introduced in Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Illinois and Texas.

The legislation would benefit corporations like Crown Holdings, a Fortune 500 company with over $8 billion in annual sales that has worked with ALEC for years to legislate its way out of compensating asbestos victims, as well as ALEC member Honeywell International, which has faced significant asbestos liability in recent years….

Sponsors Say the Bill Has Nothing to Do with ALEC?

The Wisconsin bill’s sponsors, Rep. Andre Jacque and Sen. Glenn Grothman — both ALEC members — deny that ALEC had anything to do with AB 19. Andrew Cook of the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council also said his group did not consult with ALEC on the bill.

According to the drafting files, Rep. Jacque asked the Legislative Reference Bureau to draft a bill based on the Ohio legislation. Yet as a member of the ALEC Civil Justice Task Force, Rep. Jacque surely knew that the Ohio bill was based off of the ALEC model.

[Footnotes omitted; live links are found at original source]

As state lawmakers elected by the citizens of Wisconsin, these legislators should not be in a position where it appears that they were “told” how to draft legislation which serves the interests of certain corporations while, at the same time, disregards the legal rights of those people in Wisconsin who, unfortunately and due to no fault of their own, have developed mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

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