Three new Missouri bills may make it more difficult for asbestos-exposed veterans to seek compensation. Two of the bills could allow asbestos companies to delay hearings. The third bill places new disclosure requirement burdens on plaintiffs.
These bills could place undue burdens on veterans, one of the most at-risk populations for asbestos diseases.
Missouri State Bills Put Up Hurdles for Asbestos Compensation
Missouri lawmakers recently introduced three bills that could deny veterans asbestos compensation. Compensation is often necessary for individuals to cover their medical expenses and lost wages. Proposed bills are:
- Senate Bill 200: Establishes provisions relating to asbestos, including providing onerous procedures for the disclosure of asbestos trust claims, sponsored by Sen. William Eigel
- Senate Bill 331: Establishes onerous disclosure procedures for a claimant in an action for damages due to asbestos exposure, sponsored by Sen. Eric Burlison
- House Bill 363: Modifies provisions relating to actions for damages due to exposure to asbestos, sponsored by Rep. David Gregory
In short, these bills would place a large burden on veterans to meet new provisions. They also may allow asbestos companies to delay hearings to the detriment of the plaintiffs.
So far, these bills continue to make their way through the Missouri legislature.
- Senate Bill 200’s hearing was scheduled and later canceled on 4/20/21. However, it is still listed at 25% progression through the house and senate.
- Senate Bill 331 was voted Do Pass on 3/29/21. It is now reported at 25% progression through the house and senate.
- House Bill 363 was voted Do Pass on 3/30/21. It is now reported at 25% progression through the house and senate.
According to an Op-Ed published in The Kansas City Star, the bills are strongly opposed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Department of Missouri.
“There is no justification for these bills,” wrote Eric Sullivan, state commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Department of Missouri. “They are political, special interest concessions to an industry that has for years covered up the dangers of asbestos products that have killed hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters. If allowed to become law, they would deny veterans — and the many other Missourians who have been poisoned by asbestos — their day in court.”
Military Asbestos Exposure Presents Extreme Health Risks
Veterans are among the groups most likely to be affected by an asbestos disease. They comprise about 30% of mesothelioma cases in the United States, though they only make up 8% of the country’s population.
Veterans may have come into contact with asbestos in:
- Military-provided housing
- Vehicles (including cars, motorcycles and heavy equipment)
Compensation can help veterans with asbestos diseases pay for medical bills and cover lost wages. Options for compensation include VA benefits, trust fund claims, mesothelioma lawsuit verdicts and/or settlements.
Missouri’s Recent History With Asbestos Bills
These three bills are not the first of their kind to be proposed in Missouri. Past asbestos-related bills proposed in Missouri include:
- House Bill 333: In 2017, HB 333 was proposed. It was voted Do Pass but died in the chamber. This bill would have forced asbestos plaintiffs to disclose trust fund claim details within 30 days of filing a lawsuit.
- Senate Bill 575: In early 2020, SB 575 was proposed. It was voted Do Pass but died in the chamber. This bill would have required asbestos victims to file claims with all available trust funds within 45 days of a civil action. Defendants could then delay the trial by forcing victims to file with additional trusts.
SB 575 was strongly opposed by Minority Floor Leader Gina Walsh. In an interview with The Missouri Times, Walsh illustrated the emotional toll these bills can take on those affected by asbestos exposure.
“It’s an emotional issue for me. When you work with people and you see them die … You spend a lot of time at work. You spend more time at work, often times, than you do with your own family,” Walsh said. “You form relationships with these people.”
Walsh argued against SB 575, saying bills like it “put a lot of the burden of proof” on victims.