For far too long, bad acting personal injury lawyers have abused our legal system, taking advantage of vulnerabilities through unethical legal practices. Specifically related to asbestos bankruptcy trust claims, these personal injury attorneys have hidden evidence of exposure in order to “double dip” damages and line their pockets. Phil Goldberg, director of the Progressive Policy Institute’s Center for Civil Justice, discusses this monumental problem and reforms that will benefit both victims and businesses in a recent op-ed published in Forbes. “People who care about victims and want to make sure that current and future plaintiffs and defendants have access to justice should support asbestos trust disclosure reforms. Where enacted, plaintiffs still have access to full recoveries, local businesses pay their fair share, and money is preserved for people who get sick in the future,” said Goldberg.
As Goldberg described, instituting reforms that establish transparency in bankruptcy trust claims works for plaintiffs and defendants and protects the integrity of our legal system. Just look at Ohio. Four years ago, the Buckeye State became the first state in the nation to implement such reforms and while the legislation was originally met with opposition, an in-depth report shows the state “accomplished the goal of ensuring transparency and fairness without imposing significant burdens on plaintiffs.” In fact, the report shows that the legal strategies employed by personal injury attorneys were more often the root cause of the longest delays.
North Carolina legislators had the opportunity to pass similar reforms prior to the end of the legislative session in June but Senate Bill 470: Personal Injury Bankruptcy Trust Claims failed to pass the General Assembly due to a hold up in the House after passing the Senate. Senate Bill 470 would have required trust claims to be filed prior to trial instead of after, establishing transparency and fairness in North Carolina’s costly civil liability and bankruptcy trust system. This change would have allowed juries to consider all evidence of claimed asbestos exposures in suit proceedings – a critical component to conducting a fair trial – and would keep bad acting personal injury lawyers from gaming the system.
Helping the injured receive the money they are owed faster should take priority, not padding the wallets of personal injury attorneys fixated on their cut. While Senate Bill 470 didn’t pass this session, the NC Chamber is committed to advancing reforms that foster predictability and transparency in North Carolina’s bankruptcy trust claims system. North Carolina must stop bad acting personal injury attorneys from manipulating our legal system for their personal gain and we won’t stop until it’s done.
Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs
North Carolina Chamber