House Bill (HB) 333 is making its way through the Missouri General Assembly despite the suffering it would cause mesothelioma victims. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Bruce DeGroot and would force asbestos plaintiffs to disclose specific details about when they filed claims against a trust within 30 days.
The specific details include how much compensation the plaintiff has or hopes to receive from trusts. According to Susan DeGhelder, it would keep victims and their families in mesothelioma lawsuits from receiving proper compensation.
DeGhelder’s husband Joe DeGhelder died of mesothelioma two years ago. He was exposed to asbestos serving as a Navy electrician. In Vietnam, he was always working with equipment that contained asbestos without wearing any protective gear. Almost one in three mesothelioma victims are veterans.
Mr. DeGhelder was diagnosed after a bad fall. Despite physical therapy, the pain continued to grow. An MRI was performed, then a CAT scan, followed by a biopsy from the lining of his lungs to confirm. He was gone within a year.
“I was a nurse for 46 years and I’ve seen a lot of sick people. But nothing like this. Joe was in severe pain and literally wasted away,” said Ms. DeGhelder. “I watched the strong man I’d married grow weaker by the day.”
Ms. DeGhelder says, “HB 333 would make it much harder—if not impossible—for mesothelioma victims to get their day in court. It would give the companies that make these dangerous products the ability to run the clock out until victims like Joe die, denying justice to families like mine.”
According to St. Louis University Law Professor Thomas Stewart, “The city isn’t a chosen venue for asbestos filings because it is plaintiff-friendly, but rather because judges there are known for their expertise and efficiency.”
“St. Louis litigated tobacco cases and those tobacco cases resulted in defense verdicts. Why didn’t we get the judicial hellhole designation when that happened?” asked Stewart.
Ohio, West Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Iowa, Oklahoma, Texas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Arizona, and Utah have also passed asbestos claims transparency legislation. Missouri would be the 13th state.
“If I could tell the members of the General Assembly one thing, it would be this: It’s time to stand on the side of Missouri veterans who are suffering,” said Ms. DeGheder. “People like Joe fought for you. It’s time you return the favor.”