It’s believed that the Fourth District Court of Appeals in Florida may have breathed new life into thousands of pending asbestos-related lawsuits when the court invalidated “retroactivity” in a state law designed to limit the number of people eligible to sue. The ruling is said to be a victory for thousands of people still awaiting their day in court. Judge Gary Farmer wrote for the unanimous court that the Florida Asbestos and Silica Compensation Fairness Act “may not constitutionally be applied to eliminate the existing vested rights in the lawsuits pending when the act became effective” July 1, 2005. Two other judges concurred. The ruling reversed 13 decisions by a trial court judge upholding retroactivity. Some of the cases date all the way back to 1999. The decision revives them in the lower court.
The 2005 law set impairment standards for plaintiffs. People with nonmalignant asbestosis must have lost at least 20% of their breathing capacity to sue, and those with lung cancer would have to have asbestosis and diminished breathing capacity to discount the effects of smoking. The appeals court said it could not sever the provisions of the act dealing with retroactivity from other provisions. The court ruled:
The act in its entirety may not constitutionally be applied to require claimants with accrued causes of action for damages resulting from exposure to asbestos to plead and prove that any malignancy or physical impairment results from their exposure to asbestos. Instead, their accrued causes of action required them to show only that they suffered from an injury from an asbestos-related, nonmalignant disease.
Observers say the court’s ruling means the 2005 law cannot be applied to any person with an asbestos-related disease whether or not they sued before the law took effect. That appears to be a very good result and one that is legally correct.
Source: Daily Business Review
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