With more than 500 stalled asbestos cases looming, the Montana Supreme Court has ordered a special claims court to be activated for the hundreds of people who have contracted asbestos-related disease or have died from asbestos exposure. This is the first time the court has been activated since it was passed in an act by lawmakers in 2001.
In the order, “justices cited the need to resolve the claims in a timely fashion, considering the complexity of the cases,” reports the Great Falls Tribune. The justices also cited the "detrimental impact" to the district courts where litigation has been moving through an already overloaded system.
The cases, which now total 548 individuals, involve defendants such as the BNSF Railway, a number of insurance companies, a paper company and an insulation company, and even the State of Montana. “The cases are now effectively consolidated as they move into the claims court to be managed by one judge,” reports the Tribune. The judge will have the power to “make sweeping decisions in managing the litigation, rather than on an individual basis.”
The separate court will be used for pretrial purposes only. “If parties don't reach a settlement and require an individual case to go to trial, that case will then head back to the original court for further proceedings,” reports the Tribune. “If settlements can be reached in a large batch, if not all the cases, then victims with varying levels of severity in their disease will receive a claim based on a scale determined in the claims court.”
The court has appointed District Judge Amy Eddy of Kalispell “to oversee pretrial proceedings and set trial management plans,” reports the Tribune. “The work will be done in Helena from the Supreme Court facilities.”
If you have been exposed to asbestos, please see your doctor right away. Even if you do not have symptoms, your doctor can assess your risk and possibly uncover signs and symptoms you may not be aware of. Though there is no cure for mesothelioma, early detection could lead to better outcomes.
"Asbestos and Cancer Risk." American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society, Inc., 2017. Web. 02 Jan. 2018.
Larson, Seaborn. "Montana Asbestos Court Created to Take on Hundreds of Unresolved Cases." Great Falls Tribune. USA Today Network, 28 Nov. 2017. Web. 02 Jan. 2018