The Arizona legislature recently enacted A.R.S. § 12-782 to prohibit claimants from obtaining duplicative or excessive recoveries in asbestos personal injury lawsuits. Section 12-782 impacts personal injury plaintiffs that also submit claims to asbestos bankruptcy trusts or other personal injury trusts set up to compensate parties injured by asbestos containing products. Its provisions make the following reforms to lawsuits alleging personal injury based on exposure to asbestos containing products:
- The plaintiff must affirmatively disclose—within forty-five days of the defendant's answer—all personal injury claims that the plaintiff has submitted to asbestos trusts set up to compensate plaintiffs and all personal injury claims that the plaintiff reasonably anticipates filing against an asbestos trust.
- The plaintiff must provide defendants with a copy of the proof of claim, all trust documents, all documents related to the settlement of the claim, the amount claimed by the plaintiff, and a list of claims the plaintiff reasonably anticipates filing, including the anticipated amount.
- The plaintiff has an ongoing duty to supplement their disclosures if a new claim is submitted or the plaintiff receives new information related to a claim.
- The trial courts must stay proceedings if the plaintiff identifies any claims that he/she reasonably anticipates filing until the claim is filed.
- Claims of privilege do not apply to asbestos trust claim documents.
- Defendants may move the court to stay proceedings and order the plaintiff to file a trust claim if the defendants identify an asbestos trust—not disclosed by the plaintiff—that the defendants reasonably believe the plaintiff should file a claim with.
- A plaintiff's submission of a claim to a trust may be considered by a jury to determine liability or apportion fault and may be used to support a finding that exposure to the products at issue in the asbestos trust were a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff's injury.
- If a plaintiff receives compensation from an asbestos trust after a trial concludes, the amount of compensation is credited against any judgment in the plaintiff's favor.
- The new law applies retroactively to all actions that are pending on its effective date.
Section 12-782 goes into effect on July 3, 2015.