Sen. Bob Duncan, laying out his bill easing causation standards in mesothelioma (asbestos-induced cancer) lawsuits, faulted opponents to his bill (which includes Texans for Lawsuit Reform, and many major industries in Texas) for failing to come to the table with language improving the controversial legislation.

“My frustration is the opponents of this bill would not sit down and (negotiate)…The opponents have had an opportunity to give me language that would address any concerns. Their failure to come forward is unprecedented and fundamentally wrong in dealing with this issue,” Duncan told the Texas Senate. 

He also said opponents are grossly exaggerating the impact of the legislation, which he says would affect about 200 Texans currently afflicted with the disease. “There’s a lobbyist (hired against the bill) for every meso case out there right now,” he added.

“This talk about opening the floodgates (of lawsuits)…I have never seen such disinformation,” Duncan said.

Duncan argues the bill is necessary because court cases have muddled the Texas Legislature’s consistent policy of treating asbestosis and mesothelioma differently in tort reform legislation. (It’s a policy based on the differences in the two illnesses: Mesothelioma has been linked directly to asbestos exposure, sometimes in limited amounts. Asbestosis, on the other hand, has multiple causes and involves more massive exposure.)  Duncan says his bill is consistent with 2005 previous legislation that allowed mesothelioma patients — suffering from a terminal illness due to asbestos exposure  — to “move to the front of the line” in suing for damages.

Sen. Joan Huffman argued against Duncan’s bill, saying it would establish “a very liberal causation standard for mesothelieoma standards…There is no evidence that one meso patient that has been denied his day in court.”  She predicted the bill would create a “a burden on business. Dow Chemical pays over a billion dollars… to help support our schools. Business has been good to Texas.” 

She argued that Duncan’s bill represents a retreat from tort reform.

Duncan contends that lawyers for opponents like Exxon and Dow Chemical have argued in other states for the exact policy that his bill would establish.