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Iowa House Sends Asbestos Lawsuit Bill To Governor

iowa capitol
John Pemble/IPR file
Iowa Capitol

Iowans who become sick from asbestos exposure would have to provide more detailed information to file a lawsuit under a bill that was sent to the governor for her signature.

The bill passed the Iowa House Tuesday on a mostly party-line vote of 54-46, with all Republicans and one Democrat voting for it.

Rep. Brian Lohse, R-Bondurant, said there have been problems with attorneys not doing enough work before filing asbestos-related lawsuits and naming too many defendants.

“[It is] a problem that drives up the cost of defense, drives up the cost of insurance, drives up the cost for plaintiffs, as well, as they struggle through the discovery to weed out those defendants that have no place whatsoever in the lawsuit,” Lohse said.

The bill adds requirements for plaintiffs to list sites they worked at, each asbestos-containing product they were exposed to, and the frequency of exposure to the product. Lohse said this will ensure attorneys do more research before filing these lawsuits to avoid delays as the case plays out.

Rep. Karin Derry, D-Johnston, said the current law already requires detailed information from plaintiffs, including location, manner, and dates of each exposure, and a medical report.

Derry said her father died of lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure. She said he didn’t know when or where the exposure happened, and many other Iowans wouldn’t know that either because it can take decades for illness to develop.

“It was, and still is, a tragedy,” Derry said. “I cannot support a law that puts up further roadblocks to Iowans seeking justice after they’ve been exposed to asbestos.”

Insurance companies, insurance industry groups, and the Iowa Association of Business and Industry supported bill, according to lobbyist filings. The Iowa State Bar Association, Iowa Academy of Trial Lawyers, the Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, and the Iowa Association for Justice opposed the bill.

The Senate passed the same bill two weeks ago, so it goes to Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds’ desk for her signature or veto.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter