North Carolina is now the 15th state in the nation to enact asbestos bankruptcy trust reforms. Today, Senate Bill 470: Personal Injury Bankruptcy Trust Claims became law without Governor Cooper’s signature, putting an end to the egregious abuses plaguing asbestos litigation. After a year of hard-fought advocacy efforts by your NC Chamber team, this is a major win for your Jobs Agenda.
Before now, North Carolina’s legal system was susceptible to flagrant abuses in asbestos litigation. From “double-dipping” damages to hiding evidence of exposure, bad acting personal injury attorneys gamed our state’s legal system, depleting the bankruptcy trusts for future victims and forcing North Carolina businesses into bankruptcy. Senate Bill 470 will mitigate this abuse by requiring that bankruptcy trust claims be filed prior to trial instead of after, making all claims materials admissible evidence in the civil action. Not only will this legislation ensure juries have access to critical evidence needed to conduct a fair trial, but it will also expedite the receipt of trust payments to those who have been harmed by accelerating claim filings.
There’s no question that the state of North Carolina’s legal climate directly impacts the overall strength of its competitive business climate. Unfortunately, North Carolina’s legal climate fell from 7th in the nation to 33rd last year. If North Carolina is to attract and retain investment, we must institute reforms that foster certainty and predictability in our legal system. Thankfully, Senate Bill 470 will establish transparency and fairness in North Carolina’s costly civil liability and bankruptcy trust system – a step in the right direction to improving our legal climate. We are thankful for the General Assembly’s action on this legislation, as well as Governor Cooper’s thoughtful consideration of the bill. We are equally pleased that he let it become law.
Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs