Texas Court of Appeals Rules Retroactive Application of Certain Minimum Medical Criteria Unconstitutional in Asbestos Case

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On June 30, Texas’s First Court of Appeals ruled that retroactive application of a provision of state legislation establishing minimum medical criteria for asbestos claimants violates the Texas Constitution. Union Carbide Corp. v. Synatzske, et al., No. 01-09-01141-CV, slip op., 2011 Tex. App. LEXIS 4934 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] June 30, 2011, no pet. h.). In doing so, the court upheld the Texas Asbestos Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) pretrial court’s order denying Union Carbide Corporation’s (Union Carbide’s) motion to dismiss, and remanded the plaintiffs’ wrongful death claims based on the alleged asbestos exposure of Joseph Emmite, a former worker at Union Carbide’s Texas City facility.

Background

Effective September 1, 2005, Chapter 90 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code established minimum medical criteria standards applicable to asbestos claimants. The purpose of the statute was to curb the onslaught of cases litigated in Texas courts for nonmalignant, unimpaired claims that hindered the ability of seriously ill claimants to fairly and efficiently pursue their claims for compensation.

Under Chapter 90, the plaintiffs in Union Carbide were required to timely serve a medical report that complied with all applicable provisions of Chapter 90 in order to proceed with their wrongful death claim for Mr. Emmite’s pulmonary asbestosis. Union Carbide filed a motion to dismiss for failure to meet those requirements. To avoid dismissal, the plaintiffs had to comply with section 90.010(f)(1)(B)(ii), which required them to serve a report that verified that pulmonary function testing was performed on Mr. Emmite and that the physician making the report interpreted the pulmonary function test. This testing was not performed before Mr. Emmite’s death.

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Published In: Civil Procedure Updates, Constitutional Law Updates, Personal Injury Updates, Products Liability Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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