Alabama Enacts Asbestos Trust Transparency Legislation
May 29, 2019
Alabama has officially enacted trust transparency legislation becoming the 16th state to pass and enact legislation aimed at improving bankruptcy trust transparency in asbestos litigation. Alabama’s “Asbestos Trust Claims Transparency Act” was signed into law by the Governor on May 28, 2019. The law becomes effective August 1, 2019.
The law is similar to the transparency laws entered in numerous other states and requires “a plaintiff in an asbestos action to file a sworn statement disclosing information regarding the plaintiff’s exposure to asbestos or, alternatively, file available trust claims and produce all trust claims materials before trial.”
We have seen new filings in Alabama this year and are expecting a steady influx of asbestos filings in Alabama that will be directly affected by this legislation. Gay Jones & Kuhn member Sarah Beth Jones who actively represents clients in Alabama explains, “this legislation was necessary to ensure defendants have the trust claims information and alternative exposure information that is vital to the defense of cases. This essential information will help us to better defend clients by providing a more accurate and complete exposure picture for the parties and the jury. It is imperative that defense counsel hold plaintiffs to the legislative requirements by making sure the required information is produced to defendants.”
The legislation lays out in detail two options for a plaintiff to comply with this trust transparency law. The first option allows for a plaintiff to provide an exposure affidavit within 90 days of filing of the asbestos action. The affidavit requires plaintiff to provide specific exposure information and the specific connection of each defendant to the alleged asbestos exposure, including, confirmation that all potential sources of plaintiff’s asbestos exposure have been investigated and identifying with specificity each and every source of exposure from both bankrupt and non-bankrupt entities. If plaintiff fails to provide the required information or fails to supplement the exposure affidavit, the court shall dismiss the case without prejudice.
Alternatively, the second option requires plaintiff file all available claims with asbestos bankruptcy trusts and provide to the parties all trust claims information and the related claim materials within 90 days of filing the case. The plaintiff has a continuing duty to supplement the trust claim information and materials as additional information or materials related to trust claims are received or if plaintiff files additional trust claims. Alabama’s law allows defendants to file a motion to stay not less than 60 days prior to trial to require plaintiff to file additional trust claims.
This legislation creates a rebuttable presumption that trust claim materials and trust governance documents are relevant, authentic, and admissible in evidence, and it allows defendants to seek discovery from asbestos bankruptcy trusts requiring plaintiff to provide consent or permission for the trusts to release information sought by defendants. Alabama’s new trust transparency law becomes effective August 1, 2019.
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