The North Dakota legislature is considering passing a law that could potentially change the way victims of asbestos exposure and mesothelioma cancer in that state seek compensation from those corporations responsible for their illness.
According to a story aired on KFYR-TV, this proposed legislation would allow those suffering from mesothelioma to receive settlement money more quickly than there can under current laws by allowing them to file with multiple asbestos trusts upfront.
Proponents of the bill say this will speed up related court proceedings, allowing money to be dispersed sooner rather than later.
“Today you have over 60 different trusts each representing a different bankrupt defender. And collectively this trust system holds about $37 billion,” explained Mark Behrens of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, educating those present about the particulars of asbestos trusts and who can file for payments from those trusts.
Behrens and other supporters of the legislation recognize that mesothelioma victims often don’t survive for more than a year past their diagnosis date, and though treatment has improved over the years, many victims pass away before any compensation is received.
Though their survivors are entitled to any payments deemed appropriate, the lack of funds to address medical expenses and other costs tends to be a frustrating scenario for the mesothelioma sufferer, who often needs round-the-clock care as their disease progresses.
Others who have expressed support for the bill include the North Dakota Association for Justice and the American Insurance Association.
It’s likely that other states will watch this scenario play out, and it will be interesting to see which states follow North Dakota’s lead.
Dunn County, North Dakota – located in the west-central portion of the state – is identified as one of the U.S. regions with the highest rates of mesothelioma per capita.
In this case, the disease is believed to be caused by exposure to erionite, a mineral similar to asbestos, used in the western portion of the state to produce gravel, mostly for use in roads.
Erionite has been used in North Dakota for nearly 30 years and, according to officials, covers some 300 miles of state roads and can be found in parking lots across the western part of the state.
Some say erionite is more dangerous than asbestos. And on dry summer days, it’s near impossible to avoid exposure to its dust, explain the locals, who are watching the increase in mesothelioma rates with alarm.
Hence, many in Dunn County, and in surrounding areas where heavy industry once meant exposure to asbestos would be a sure thing, could benefit from the legislation as they attempt to tap the trusts of companies responsible for their exposure.
No doubt many victims and their families are watching as North Dakota moves closer to passing this legislation.