2017 Georgia Code
Title 51 - Torts
Chapter 14 - Asbestos and Silica Claims
§ 51-14-3. Definitions

Universal Citation: GA Code § 51-14-3 (2017)
  • As used in this chapter, the term:
    • (1) "Asbestos" means chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite asbestos, anthophyllite asbestos, actinolite asbestos, and any of these minerals that have been chemically treated or altered, including but not limited to all minerals defined as asbestos in 29 C.F.R. 1910.
    • (2) (A) "Asbestos claim" means any claim, wherever or whenever made, for damages, losses, indemnification, contribution, loss of consortium, or other relief arising out of, based on, or in any way related to the health effects of exposure to asbestos, including, but not limited to:
      • (i) Any claim, to the extent recognized by applicable state law now or in the future, for:
        • (I) Personal injury or death;
        • (II) Mental or emotional injury;
        • (III) Risk or fear of disease or other injury;
        • (IV) The costs of medical monitoring or surveillance; or
        • (V) Damage or loss caused by the installation, presence, or removal of asbestos; and
      • (ii) Any claim made by or on behalf of an exposed person or based on that exposed person's exposure to asbestos, including a representative, spouse, parent, child, or other relative of the exposed person.
        • (B) "Asbestos claim" shall not mean a claim brought under:
          • (i) A workers' compensation law administered by this state to provide benefits, funded by a responsible employer or its insurance carrier, for occupational diseases or injuries or for disability or death caused by occupational diseases or injuries;
          • (ii) The Act of April 22, 1908, known as the Federal Employers' Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. Section 51, et seq.;
          • (iii) The Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, 33 U.S.C. Sections 901-944, 948-950; or
          • (iv) The Federal Employees Compensation Act, 5 U.S.C. Chapter 81.
    • (3) "Asbestosis" means bilateral diffuse interstitial fibrosis of the lungs caused by inhalation of asbestos.
    • (4) "Board certified internist" means a qualified physician licensed to practice medicine who is currently certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine.
    • (5) "Board certified occupational medicine physician" means a qualified physician licensed to practice medicine who is currently certified in the subspecialty of occupational medicine by the American Board of Preventive Medicine.
    • (6) "Board certified oncologist" means a qualified physician licensed to practice medicine who is currently certified in the subspecialty of medical oncology by the American Board of Internal Medicine.
    • (7) "Board certified pathologist" means a qualified physician licensed to practice medicine who holds primary certification in anatomic pathology or combined anatomic or clinical pathology from the American Board of Pathology and whose professional practice is principally in the field of pathology and involves regular evaluation of pathology materials obtained from surgical or post-mortem specimens.
    • (8) "Board certified pulmonologist" means a qualified physician licensed to practice medicine who is currently certified in the subspecialty of pulmonary medicine by the American Board of Internal Medicine.
    • (9) "Certified B-reader" means a qualified physician who has successfully passed the B-reader certification examination for X-ray interpretation sponsored by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and whose certification was current at the time of any readings required by this chapter.
    • (10) "Chest X-rays" means films taken in two views (PA and Lateral) for reading in accordance with the radiological standards established by the International Labor Office, as interpreted by a certified B-reader.
    • (11) "Claimant" means a party seeking recovery of damages for an asbestos claim or silica claim, including the exposed person, any other plaintiff making a claim as a result of the exposed person's exposure to asbestos or silica, counterclaimant, cross-claimant, or third-party plaintiff. If a claim is brought through or on behalf of an estate, the term includes the claimant's decedent; if a claim is brought through or on behalf of a minor or incompetent, the term includes the claimant's parent or guardian.
    • (12) "Exposed person" means any person whose exposure to asbestos or silica is the basis for an asbestos claim or a silica claim.
    • (13) "FEV-1" means forced expiratory volume in the first second, which is the maximal volume of air expelled in one second during performance of simple spirometric tests.
    • (14) "FVC" means forced vital capacity, which is the maximal volume of air expired with maximum effort from a position of full inspiration.
    • (15) "ILO system" means the radiological ratings of the International Labor Office set forth in Guidelines for the Use of ILO International Classification of Radiographs of Pneumoconioses, revised edition, as amended from time to time by the International Labor Office.
    • (16) "Lower limit of normal" means the fifth percentile of healthy populations based on age, height, and gender, as referenced in the American Medical Association's Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, fifth edition, as amended from time to time by the American Medical Association.
    • (17) In the context of an asbestos claim, "prima-facie evidence of physical impairment" means:
      • (A) For an asbestos claim that accrued before April 12, 2005:
        • (i) For an asbestos claim alleging mesothelioma: that a claimant alleges mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos, and no further prima-facie evidence of physical impairment shall be required;
        • (ii) For an asbestos claim alleging cancer other than mesothelioma: that a physician licensed to practice medicine (who need not be a "qualified physician" as defined in this Code section) has signed a medical report certifying to a reasonable degree of medical probability that the exposed person's exposure to asbestos was a contributing factor to the diagnosed cancer other than mesothelioma and attaching whatever evidence the physician relied upon in determining that the exposed person has or had an asbestos related cancer; and
        • (iii) For an asbestos claim alleging nonmalignant injury: that a physician licensed to practice medicine (who need not be a "qualified physician" as defined in this Code section) has signed a medical report certifying to a reasonable degree of medical probability that the exposed person's exposure to asbestos was a contributing factor to the diagnosed nonmalignant asbestos injury and attaching whatever evidence the physician relied upon in determining that the exposed person has or had a nonmalignant asbestos injury;
      • (B) For an asbestos claim that accrued on or after May 1, 2007:
        • (i) For an asbestos claim alleging mesothelioma: that a claimant alleges mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos, and no further prima-facie evidence of physical impairment shall be required;
        • (ii) For an asbestos claim alleging cancer other than mesothelioma: that a board certified internist, board certified pulmonologist, board certified pathologist, board certified occupational medicine physician, or board certified oncologist has signed a medical report certifying to a reasonable degree of medical probability that the exposed person has or had a cancer other than mesothelioma; that the cancer is a primary cancer; that exposure to asbestos was a substantial contributing factor to the diagnosed cancer; and that other potential causes (such as smoking) were not the sole or most likely cause of the injury at issue;
        • (iii) For an asbestos claim alleging nonmalignant injury: that a board certified internist, board certified pulmonologist, board certified pathologist, board certified occupational medicine physician, or board certified oncologist has signed a medical report stating that the exposed person suffers or suffered from a nonmalignant asbestos injury and:
          • (I) Verifying that the doctor signing the medical report or a medical professional or professionals employed by and under the direct supervision and control of that doctor has taken histories as defined below or, alternatively, confirming that the signing doctor is relying on such histories taken or obtained by another physician or physicians who actually treated the exposed person or who had a doctor-patient relationship with the exposed person or by a medical professional or professionals employed by and under the direct supervision and control of such other physician or physicians, with such histories to consist of the following:
            • (a) A detailed occupational and exposure history from the exposed person or, if the exposed person is deceased or incapable of providing such history, from the person or persons most knowledgeable about the exposures that form the basis for the asbestos claim. The history shall include all of the exposed person's principal employments and his or her exposures to airborne contaminants that can cause pulmonary impairment, including, but not limited to, asbestos, silica, and other disease-causing dusts, and the nature, duration, and level of any such exposure; and

              (b) A detailed medical and smoking history from the exposed person or, if the exposed person is deceased or incapable of providing such history, from the person or persons most knowledgeable about the exposed person's medical and smoking history, or the exposed person's medical records, or both, that includes a thorough review of the exposed person's past and present medical problems and their most probable cause;

          • (II) Setting out the details of the exposed person's occupational, medical, and smoking histories and verifying that at least 15 years have elapsed between the exposed person's first exposure to asbestos and the time of diagnosis;
          • (III) Verifying that the exposed person has:
            • (a) An ILO quality 1 chest X-ray taken in accordance with all applicable state and federal regulatory standards, and that the X-ray has been read by a certified B-reader according to the ILO system of classification as showing bilateral small irregular opacities (s, t, or u) graded 1/1 or higher or bilateral diffuse pleural thickening graded b2 or higher including blunting of the costophrenic angle; provided, however, that in a death case where no pathology is available, the necessary radiologic findings may be made with a quality 2 film if a quality 1 film is not available; or

              (b) Pathological asbestosis graded 1(B) or higher under the criteria published in the Asbestos-Associated Diseases, Special Issue of the

              Archives of Pathological and Laboratory Medicine, Volume 106, Number 11, Appendix 3, as amended from time to time;
          • (IV) Verifying that the exposed person has pulmonary impairment related to asbestos as demonstrated by pulmonary function testing, performed using equipment, methods of calibration, and techniques that meet the criteria incorporated in the American Medical Association's Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, fifth edition, and reported as set forth in 20 C.F.R. 404, Subpt. P. App 1, Part (A) Section 3.00 (E) and (F), as amended from time to time by the American Medical Association, and the interpretative standards of the American Thoracic Society, Lung Function Testing: Selection of Reference Values and Interpretive Strategies, 144 Am. Rev. Resp. Dis. 1202-1218 (1991), as amended from time to time by the American Thoracic Society, that shows:
            • (a) Forced vital capacity below the lower limit of normal and FEV1VC ratio, using actual values, at or above the lower limit of normal; or

              (b) Total lung capacity, by plethysmography or timed gas dilution, below the lower limit of normal,

              except that this subdivision (17)(B)(iii)(IV) shall not apply if the medical report includes the pathological evidence set forth in clause (17)(B)(iii)(III)(b) of this Code section;

              (V)

              (a) Exception to pulmonary function test requirement in subdivision (17)(B)(iii)(IV) of this Code section: If the doctor signing the medical report states in the medical report that the exposed person's medical condition or process prevents the pulmonary function test described in subdivision (17)(B)(iii)(IV) of this Code section from being performed or makes the results of such test an unreliable indicator of physical impairment, a board certified internist, board certified pulmonologist, board certified pathologist, board certified occupational medicine physician, or board certified oncologist (none of whom need be a "qualified physician" as defined in this Code section), independent from the physician signing the report required in this subdivision, must provide a report which states to a reasonable degree of medical probability that the exposed person has or had a nonmalignant asbestos related condition causing physical impairment equivalent to that required in subdivision (17)(B)(iii)(IV) of this Code section and states the reasons why the pulmonary function test could not be performed or would be an unreliable indicator of physical impairment.

  • (b) Exception to X-ray requirement in clause (17)(B)(iii)(III)(a) of this Code section: Alternatively and not to be used in conjunction with clause (17)(B)(iii)(V)(a) of this Code section, if the doctor signing the medical report states in the medical report that the exposed person's medical condition or process prevents a physician from being able to diagnose or evaluate that exposed person sufficiently to make a determination as to whether that exposed person meets the requirements of clause (17)(B)(iii)(III)(a) of this Code section, the claimant may serve on each defendant a report by a board certified internist, board certified pulmonologist, board certified pathologist, board certified occupational medicine physician, or board certified oncologist (none of whom need be a "qualified physician" as defined in this Code section) that:
    • (1) Verifies that the physician has or had a doctor patient relationship with the exposed person;
  • (2) Verifies that the exposed person has or had asbestos related pulmonary impairment as demonstrated by pulmonary function testing showing:
    • (A) Forced vital capacity below the lower limit of normal and total lung capacity, by plethysmography, below the lower limit of normal; or

      (B) Forced vital capacity below the lower limit of normal and FEV1VC ratio (using actual values) at or above the lower limit of normal; and

      (3) Verifies that the exposed person has a chest X-ray and computed tomography scan or high resolution computed tomography scan read by the physician or a board certified internist, board certified pulmonologist, board certified pathologist, board certified occupational medicine physician, board certified oncologist, or board certified radiologist (none of whom need be a "qualified physician" as defined in this Code section) showing either bilateral pleural disease or bilateral parenchymal disease diagnosed and reported as being a consequence of asbestos exposure; and

      • (VI) Verifies that the doctor signing the medical report has concluded to a reasonable degree of medical probability that exposure to asbestos was a substantial contributing factor to the exposed person's physical impairment.

        Copies of the B-reading, the pulmonary function tests, including printouts of the flow volume loops and all other elements required to demonstrate compliance with the equipment, quality, interpretation, and reporting standards set forth in this paragraph (17), the medical report (in the form of an affidavit as required by subparagraph (A) of paragraph (2) of Code Section 51-14-6), and all other required reports shall be submitted as required by this chapter. All such reports, as well as all other evidence used to establish prima-facie evidence of physical impairment, must comply, to the extent applicable, with the technical recommendations for examinations, testing procedures, quality assurance, quality controls, and equipment in the American Medical Association's Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, fifth edition, as amended from time to time by the American Medical Association, and the most current version of the Official Statements of the American Thoracic Society regarding lung function testing. Testing performed in a hospital or other medical facility that is fully licensed and accredited by all appropriate regulatory bodies in the state in which the facility is located is presumed to meet the requirements of this chapter. This presumption may be rebutted by evidence demonstrating that the accreditation or licensing of the hospital or other medical facility has lapsed or by providing specific facts demonstrating that the technical recommendations for examinations, testing procedures, quality assurance, quality control, and equipment have not been followed. All such reports, as well as all other evidence used to establish prima-facie evidence of physical impairment, must not be obtained through testing or examinations that violate any applicable law, regulation, licensing requirement, or medical code of practice and must not be obtained under the condition that the exposed person retain legal services in exchange for the examination, testing, or screening. Failure to attach the required reports or demonstration by any party that the reports do not satisfy the standards set forth in this paragraph (17) shall result in the dismissal of the asbestos claim, without prejudice, upon motion of any party.

        • (18) In the context of a silica claim, "prima-facie evidence of physical impairment" means:
          • (A) For a silica claim that accrued before April 12, 2005, that a physician licensed to practice medicine (who need not be a "qualified physician" as defined in this Code section) has signed a medical report certifying to a reasonable degree of medical probability that the exposed person's exposure to silica was a contributing factor to the claimed injury and attached whatever evidence the physician relied upon in determining that the exposed person has or had a silica related injury; and
          • (B) For a silica claim that accrued on or after May 1, 2007:
            • (i) A medical report asserting that the exposed person has or had a silica related lung cancer and:
              • (I) Certifying to a reasonable degree of medical probability that the cancer is a primary lung cancer; and
              • (II) Signed by a board certified internist, board certified pulmonologist, board certified pathologist, board certified occupational medicine physician, or board certified oncologist stating to a reasonable degree of medical probability that exposure to silica was a substantial contributing factor to the lung cancer with underlying silicosis demonstrated by an X-ray that has been read by a certified B-reader according to the ILO system of classification as showing bilateral nodular opacities (p, q, or r) occurring primarily in the upper lung fields, graded 1/1 or higher, and that the lung cancer was not more probably the sole result of causes other than the silica exposure revealed by the exposed person's occupational, silica exposure, medical, and smoking histories;
            • (ii) A medical report asserting that the exposed person has or had silica related progressive massive fibrosis or acute silicoproteinosis, or silicosis complicated by documented tuberculosis, signed by a board certified internist, board certified pulmonologist, board certified pathologist, board certified occupational medicine physician, or board certified oncologist; or
            • (iii) A medical report signed by a board certified internist, board certified pulmonologist, board certified pathologist, board certified occupational medicine physician, or board certified oncologist stating that the exposed person suffers from other stages of nonmalignant disease related to silicosis other than those set forth in divisions (i) and (ii) of this subparagraph, and:
              • (I) Verifying that the doctor signing the medical report or a medical professional or professionals employed by and under the direct supervision and control of that doctor has taken histories as defined below or, alternatively, confirming that the signing doctor is relying on such histories taken or obtained by another physician or physicians who actually treated the exposed person or who had a doctor-patient relationship with the exposed person or by a medical professional or professionals employed by and under the direct supervision and control of such other physician or physicians, with such histories to consist of the following:
                • (a) A detailed occupational and exposure history from the exposed person or, if the exposed person is deceased or incapable of providing such history, from the person or persons most knowledgeable about the exposures that form the basis for the silica claim. The history shall include all of the exposed person's principal employments and his or her exposures to airborne contaminants that can cause pulmonary impairment, including, but not limited to, asbestos, silica, and other disease-causing dusts, and the nature, duration, and level of any such exposure; and

                  (b) A detailed medical and smoking history from the exposed person or, if the exposed person is deceased or incapable of providing such history, from the person or persons most knowledgeable about the exposed person's medical and smoking history, or the exposed person's medical records, or both, that includes a thorough review of the exposed person's past and present medical problems and their most probable cause;

              • (II) Setting out the details of the exposed person's occupational, medical, and smoking histories and verifying a sufficient latency period for the applicable stage of silicosis;
              • (III) Verifying that the exposed person has at least Class 2 or higher impairment due to silicosis, as set forth in the American Medical Association's Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, fifth edition, as amended from time to time by the American Medical Association and:
                • (a) Has an ILO quality 1 chest X-ray taken in accordance with all applicable state and federal regulatory standards, and that the X-ray has been read by a certified B-reader according to the ILO system of classification as showing bilateral nodular opacities (p, q, or r) occurring primarily in the upper lung fields, graded 1/1 or higher; provided, however, that in a death case where no pathology is available, the necessary radiologic findings may be made with a quality 2 film if a quality 1 film is not available; or

                  (b) Has pathological demonstration of classic silicotic nodules exceeding 1 centimeter in diameter as set forth in 112

                  Archives of Pathological & Laboratory Medicine 7 (July 1988), as amended from time to time; and
              • (IV) Verifying that the doctor signing the medical report has concluded to a reasonable degree of medical probability that the exposure to silica was a substantial contributing factor to the exposed person's physical impairment.

                Copies of the B-reading, the pulmonary function tests, including printouts of the flow volume loops and all other elements required to demonstrate compliance with the equipment, quality, interpretation, and reporting standards set forth in this paragraph (18), and the medical report (in the form of an affidavit as required by subparagraph (A) of paragraph (2) of Code Section 51-14-6), and all other required reports shall be submitted as required by this chapter. All such reports, as well as all other evidence used to establish prima-facie evidence of physical impairment, must comply, to the extent applicable, with the technical recommendations for examinations, testing procedures, quality assurance, quality controls, and equipment in the American Medical Association's Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, fifth edition, as amended from time to time by the American Medical Association, and the most current version of the Official Statements of the American Thoracic Society regarding lung function testing. Testing performed in a hospital or other medical facility that is fully licensed and accredited by all appropriate regulatory bodies in the state in which the facility is located is presumed to meet the requirements of this chapter. This presumption may be rebutted by evidence demonstrating that the accreditation or licensing of the hospital or other medical facility has lapsed or by providing specific facts demonstrating that the technical recommendations for examinations, testing procedures, quality assurance, quality control, and equipment have not been followed. All such reports, as well as all other evidence used to establish prima-facie evidence of physical impairment, must not be obtained through testing or examinations that violate any applicable law, regulation, licensing requirement, or medical code of practice, and must not be obtained under the condition that the exposed person retain legal services in exchange for the examination, testing, or screening. Failure to attach the required reports or demonstration by any party that the reports do not satisfy the standards set forth in this paragraph (18) shall result in the dismissal of the silica claim, without prejudice, upon motion of any party.

        • (19) "Qualified physician" means a medical doctor, who:
          • (A) Spends no more than 35 percent of his or her professional practice time in providing consulting or expert services in connection with actual or potential civil actions, and whose medical group, professional corporation, clinic, or other affiliated group earns not more than 50 percent of its revenues from providing such services; provided, however, that the trial court, in its discretion, may allow a physician who meets the other requirements of this chapter but does not meet the time and revenue requirements of this subparagraph to submit a report required by this chapter if the trial court first makes an evidentiary finding (after all parties have had a reasonable opportunity to present evidence) that it would be manifestly unjust not to allow the physician at issue to submit the report and makes specific and detailed findings, setting forth the bases therefor, that the physician's opinions appear to be reliable medical opinions in that they are supported by documented, reliable medical evidence that was obtained through testing or examinations that comply with and do not violate any applicable law, regulation, licensing requirement, or medical code of practice and that the opinions are not the product of bias or the result of financial influence due to his or her role as a paid expert. The cost of retaining another physician who is qualified pursuant to this subparagraph for the purpose of submitting a report required by this chapter may not be considered in determining manifest injustice, but the availability or unavailability of other physicians who meet the time and revenue requirements of this subparagraph shall be considered as a relevant factor; and
          • (B) Does not require as a condition of diagnosing, examining, testing, screening, or treating the exposed person that legal services be retained by the exposed person or any other person pursuing an asbestos or silica claim based on the exposed person's exposure to asbestos or silica.

            The board certified internist, board certified pulmonologist, board certified pathologist, board certified occupational medicine physician, or board certified oncologist who submits a report under this chapter may be an expert witness retained by counsel for the exposed person or claimant, so long as the physician otherwise meets the requirements of this chapter and any other applicable Code sections governing the qualifications of expert witnesses.

        • (20) "Silica" means a group of naturally occurring crystalline forms of silicon dioxide, including, but not limited to, quartz and silica sand, whether in the form of respirable free silica or any quartz-containing or crystalline silica-containing dust, in the form of a quartz-containing by-product or crystalline silica-containing by-product, or dust released from individual or commercial use, release, or disturbance of silica sand, silicon dioxide, or crystalline-silica containing media, consumables, or materials.
        • (21) (A) "Silica claim" means any claim, wherever or whenever made, for damages, losses, indemnification, contribution, loss of consortium, or other relief arising out of, based on, or in any way related to the health effects of exposure to silica, including, but not limited to:
          • (i) Any claim, to the extent recognized by applicable state law now or in the future, for:
            • (I) Personal injury or death;
            • (II) Mental or emotional injury;
            • (III) Risk or fear of disease or other injury; or
            • (IV) The costs of medical monitoring or surveillance; and
          • (ii) Any claim made by or on behalf of an exposed person or based on that exposed person's exposure to silica, including a representative, spouse, parent, child, or other relative of the exposed person.
            • (B) "Silica claim" shall not mean a claim brought under:
              • (i) A workers' compensation law administered by this state to provide benefits, funded by a responsible employer or its insurance carrier, for occupational diseases or injuries or for disability or death caused by occupational diseases or injuries;
              • (ii) The Act of April 22, 1908, known as the Federal Employers' Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. Section 51, et seq.;
              • (iii) The Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, 33 U.S.C. Sections 901-944, 948-950; or
              • (iv) The Federal Employees Compensation Act, 5 U.S.C. Chapter 81.
        • (22) "Silicosis" means nodular interstitial fibrosis of the lung produced by inhalation of silica.
        • (23) "Substantial contributing factor" means that exposure to asbestos or silica took place on a regular basis over an extended period of time and in close proximity to the exposed person and was a factor without which the physical impairment in question would not have occurred.
        • (24) "Total lung capacity" means the volume of gas contained in the lungs at the end of a maximal inspiration.
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