Asbestos Laws in Ohio
Over the past decade, Ohio was one of the nation’s most active states in the area of asbestos litigation reform. By 2000, Ohio was one of only five states that accounted for more than two-thirds of the country’s new asbestos-related case filings. This distinction prompted Ohio lawmakers to tackle asbestos-related tort reform. They are considered leaders in limiting the number of active asbestos cases in its state courts.
Driving factors behind Ohio’s reform efforts were filings by claimants with no impairments and an increased number of bankruptcies by Ohio-based companies with significant asbestos liabilities. Citing concerns that frivolous claims would negatively impact the state’s economy and the availability of money for truly sick claimants, lawmakers actively participated in national debates about asbestos litigation.
Meanwhile, Ohio state courts saw a large uptick in asbestos filings. By 2004, Cuyahoga County, Ohio’s most populous county, had 41,000 pending asbestos lawsuits.
Ohio’s Asbestos Reforms
Ohio enacted several litigation reforms in 2004. The measures limited who could file asbestos claims and who could be liable for asbestos-related injuries. Major features of Ohio’s asbestos laws address medical criteria; a substantial factor test; successor liability; premises liability; and a legal doctrine known as “piercing the corporate veil.”
Ohio state law requires claimants to demonstrate physical impairment in order to move forward with their lawsuits. The law permits claimants who were exposed to asbestos, but are currently unimpaired, to file claims later if medical symptoms develop. The immediate effect of this legislation was to prioritize the claims of the sickest plaintiffs.
Wrongful death plaintiffs and claimants with nonmalignant conditions must make an initial case that asbestos exposure was a substantial contributing factor to the illness. Plaintiffs with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related, malignant cancer are not held to the same standard.
Claimants must file written reports with the court providing evidence that their conditions meet certain medical requirements. If a plaintiff fails to satisfy the medical criteria, the court can dismiss the case without prejudice.