Post Authored by Yara Mroueh
Iowans who claim sickness from asbestos exposure may soon have to provide more detailed information in order to sue for damages. As a result of the over-naming of defendants in asbestos and silica lawsuits, the Iowa House and Senate passed Senate File 2337 (“SF2337”). Governor Kim Reynolds is expected to sign it into law.
Current law only requires “the identity of the defendant or defendants against whom the plaintiff asserts a claim.” Iowa Code § 686B.3(2)(3) (2020). This has allowed plaintiffs to name dozens or hundreds of defendants, resulting in costly defense fees and significant court delays. Further, current law only requires plaintiffs to identify the current “employer of the exposed person.” Id. at § 686B.3(2)(a). It does not require the plaintiff to identify all past employers. As a result, this provision can subject the current employer to liability that past employers should share for their part in exposing the injured party to asbestos or silica.
SF2337 provides new rules for asbestos-related lawsuits. Plaintiffs suing companies over claimed exposure to asbestos and silica would have to establish a basis for the allegation against specific defendants. The File requires anyone filing an asbestos or silica lawsuit to include a sworn affidavit detailing the evidence against each named defendant in the initial pleading, along with other responsible parties–including bankrupt entities–and a full list of current and former employers. Iowa plaintiffs would have to identify each current and past work site, as well as the frequency of their exposure to asbestos. The affidavit would have to list each product to which exposure to asbestos or silica is claimed, and identify each manufacturer, distributor, and seller of that product. SF2337 calls for the dismissal of any defendant for which the plaintiff fails to provide this information.
Requiring plaintiffs to list sites they worked at, each asbestos-containing product they were exposed to, and the frequency of exposure to the asbestos-containing product will ensure that attorneys do more research before filing asbestos-related lawsuits. These new requirements will also avoid delays as the case plays out by streamlining written discovery and depositions for all parties. It will also curb the practice of recovering damages from both civil courts and bankruptcy trusts by alleging different sources of exposure following the completion of the civil lawsuit. This is because the plaintiff will have to disclose all known sources of exposure at the outset of the case, including exposures to all known bankrupt entities.
About the Author:
Yara Mroueh is an associate attorney at Gordon & Rees, where she focuses her practice primarily in the areas of products and premises liability, insurance defense, toxic tort, and commercial litigation. Yara is active in all phases of litigation, from investigating the facts, settlement negotiations, and pre-trial preparation. As part of her practice, Yara enjoys taking depositions and drafting complex motions in state and federal matters. Yara’s bilingual skills provide her a unique opportunity to connect with clients and achieve the best possible outcome.