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January 18, 2007

U.S. Chamber Applauds Ohio Judge for Standing Up to ‘Double-Dipping’ by Trial Lawyers in Asbestos Case

Washington, DC – Statement by Lisa Rickard, President of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform on today’s opinion by Judge Harry Hanna of the Court of Common Pleas, Cuyahoga County, Ohio (Jack Kananian, et al., vs. Lorillard Tobacco Company, Case No. 442750):

“Judge Harry Hanna should be commended for taking the time to investigate corrupt ‘double-dipping’ by some asbestos plaintiffs’ lawyers. His opinion exposes a world of fraudulent asbestos claims, where the lawyers allege injury as a result of exposure to one product after collecting from a bankruptcy trust by asserting the same injury occurred from another product, and elaborate schemes to keep those claims hidden from asbestos defendants and the courts. This type of activity hurts injured victims with legitimate claims by diverting money from a limited pool of available funds through deceit and deception.

“Asbestos defendants should have a legal right to know when a plaintiffs’ lawyer is ‘double-dipping,’ as well as alleging conflicting sources of exposure in multiple claims. Defendants should also have a right to know how much money a plaintiff has collected from other sources for the same injury. We believe judges should require disclosure of this kind of information as a matter of course. If they fail to do so, legislative remedies may be in order.

“For too long, asbestos plaintiffs’ lawyers have sought to hide bankruptcy claims from defendants and the courts. Judges in three states, Ohio, California and Virginia, have now ruled that these claims should be discoverable and admissible in court. Every court in the country has a judicial interest in supervising all recoveries to a plaintiff in their courtroom.”

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The mission of the Institute for Legal Reform is to make America’s legal system simpler, fairer, and faster for everyone. It seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial, and educational activities at the national, state, and local levels.

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