MADISON (WKOW)-- Asbestos is one of those words that many people associate with the past, but the harmful effects of this building material are still being felt by many people today.
Local veteran groups are campaigning against a bill they say would make it harder for asbestos victims to receive justice. They're adamantly opposed to Assembly Bill 19 which will be voted on later this week. The bill would require plaintiffs in asbestos lawsuits to reveal how many business their attorneys plan to go after.
Ruth Grosz has seen the horrors of asbestos exposure first hand.
"It's a horrible, horrible death to watch them fade to nothing. Their skin yellows. They lose their hair," Grosz says. "It's a terrible situation."
Grosz and her family could only sit and watch as her husband of 50 years slowly died from mesothelioma. She says he was exposed to asbestos during his time as a marine.
While only making up 8% of the nation's population, veterans account for nearly 30% of mesothelioma-related deaths. Which is why the American Legion and VFW are asking Governor Scott Walker and the state assembly to vote against Assembly Bill 19. They say the bill slows down the process by creating extra red tape for asbestos victims and their families.
"AB 19 makes it far too expensive and time-consuming to bring a case to trial. Many of these veterans will die before then can tell their story," Jason Johns of the Wisconsin Asbestos Victim Network explains.
Members of the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council however, are in favor of the bill. They say the bill was created to protect victims by making sure people don't cheat the system and go after every trust fund they can. They say lawyers often "double dip" and receive payment from both the court system and these asbestos-related trusts to get as much money as possible. They're concerned because the trust funds only have a finite amount of money allotted to them. They say it's important to protect these funds, because one day they'll be empty and many victims will be left with nothing.
"We're trying to protect the assets of those trust accounts for the veterans and for others that have this horrible disease," Wisconsin Civil Justice Council President Bill Smith says.
"The integrity of those trust accounts is very important. They were never created to compensate attorneys. They were created to compensate the victims."
The bill has already been approved by the senate. The assembly plans to vote on it later this week. If they pass the bill it will then go to the governor's desk for approval. Governor Walker says he is waiting to see how the bill does in the assembly before issuing his opinion.
MADISON (WKOW) -- Veterans opposed to a bill that would slow asbestos-exposure lawsuits in Wisconsin held a news conference Monday, where they urged Governor Scott Walker and the state Assembly to stop the measure.
Veterans and relatives of those who have died due to asbestos exposure came to the news conference, and they expressed their opinion that the bill would delay and deny justice to asbestos victims.
The bill would require plaintiffs to reveal how many businesses their attorneys plan to go after.
The Senate passed the bill last week and the Assembly is expected to vote on the final version Thursday before adjourning for the year.
Gov. Walker has not said whether he will sign the bill, but a spokesperson for his office says the bill is about ensuring transparency stopping trial lawyers from double dipping.
WKOW'S Gordon Severson spoke with those on both sides of the issue today, and he's Got You Covered with more on the intent of the law and the concerns of veterans tonight in 27 News at 5 and 6.
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