On Tuesday, the Maryland Citizens for Asbestos Reform (MCAR) urged the House Judiciary Committee to favorably consider House Bill 1346.
The bill would amend the cap on the state’s non-economic damages law to establish an objective definition of when a cause of action arises. The Maryland Court of Appeals has held that a cause
of action for a latent disease, such as cancer, arises upon exposure to a hazardous substance, not upon the appearance of symptoms of the disease or diagnosis of the disease.
“This bill is an attempt to close a loophole created by the courts that was against the intent of the state legislature, the body that is supposed to make public policy,” explained Bryson Popham,
lobbyist for MCAR. “The Maryland legislature decided in 1986 to set a cap on non-economic damages applicable to all lawsuits and this bill would restore the law as the legislature intended it to be.”
The Maryland Court of Appeals decision in Crane v. Scribner created a class of defendants that do not reportedly have the benefit of the limitation on non-economic damages that the Maryland General Assembly decided should be available to all defendants through the enactment of the 1986 Acts of Maryland, Chapter 639, the non-economic damages law.
“Restoring the cap on non-economic damages in latent disease cases would not prevent anyone in the state of Maryland from pursuing cases and receiving compensation,” continued John Andryszak, lobbyist for MCAR. “This bill would simply provide defendants in these cases the same protections of caps on non-economic damages that defendants have in every other type of
lawsuit in Maryland.
“The exclusion of asbestos cases from the application of the cap on non-economic damages has cost Maryland-based businesses and businesses with Maryland facilities over $100 million in additional non-economic damages since the Scribner decision, and will cost these same businesses millions of dollars more in judgments and settlements if this decision is not reversed
through the enactment of HB 1346,” added Andryszak.