The Wisconsin Senate on Wednesday, March 12 passed asbestos trust fund transparency legislation (AB 19). The bill passed on a party-line vote (17-16). The bill was amended and was passed by the Assembly late this week. This is a significant victory for Wisconsin businesses.
This legislation forces plaintiff attorneys filing asbestos lawsuits in Wisconsin courts to disclose all evidence of claims filed with the trust funds. AB 19 is about transparency and ensuring that a plaintiff and his or her attorney do not receive compensation twice (or three or four times) for the same claim, thereby safeguarding resources for future victims.
Specifically, AB 19 does the following:
- Requires asbestos plaintiffs to disclose any and all claims that they have filed or will file with asbestos trust funds, along with all of the documents and information that support the trust claims.
- Requires judges to admit trust claims and supporting materials into evidence at trial; prohibits plaintiffs from spuriously alleging that trust claims and their supporting documents are privileged.
- Provides defendants with a powerful tool to ensure that plaintiffs file and disclose all possible claims with asbestos trusts. AB 19 authorizes defendants to identify trust claims that the plaintiff could and should file. If a judge agrees, the case is stayed until that claim is filed and disclosed.