2020 Georgia Code
Title 51 - Torts
Chapter 14 - Asbestos and Silica Claims
§ 51-14-1. Legislative Findings and Purpose

Universal Citation: GA Code § 51-14-1 (2020)
  1. The General Assembly finds that:
    1. Asbestos is a mineral that was widely used prior to the 1980s for insulation, fire-proofing, and other purposes;
    2. Many American workers and others were exposed to asbestos, especially during and after World War II, at shipyards and other sites, prior to the advent of regulation by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the early 1970s;
    3. Exposure to asbestos is associated with various types of cancer, including mesothelioma, as well as nonmalignant conditions such as asbestosis and diffuse pleural thickening;
    4. Diseases caused by asbestos exposure often have long latency periods;
    5. Silica is a naturally occurring mineral and is the second most common constituent of the earth's crust. Crystalline silica in the form of quartz is present in sand, gravel, soil, and rocks;
    6. Silica related illnesses, including silicosis, can develop from the inhalation of respirable silica dust. Silicosis was widely recognized as an occupational disease many years ago;
    7. Concerns about statutes of limitations may prompt unimpaired asbestos and silica claimants to bring lawsuits to protect their ability to recover for their potentially progressive occupational disease;
    8. It is proper for the General Assembly to support and protect the Georgia courts from the massive litigation expense and the crowding of trial dockets caused by asbestos and silica litigation;
    9. The cost of compensating exposed individuals who are not sick and legal costs spent on their claims jeopardize recoveries both now and in the future by people with cancer or other serious asbestos related injuries; threaten the savings, retirement benefits, and jobs of current and retired employees of the defendants; and adversely affect the communities in which the defendants operate;
    10. In February, 2003, the American Bar Association Commission on Asbestos Litigation, with input from ten of the nation's most prominent physicians in the area of pulmonary function, adopted the "ABA Standard For Non-Malignant Asbestos-Related Disease Claims," which sets forth medical criteria for demonstrating asbestos related impairment that provide the underlying framework for the criteria set forth in this chapter and in similar legislation adopted in several other states;
    11. Ohio, Florida, Texas, Kansas, South Carolina, and Tennessee have enacted legislation similar to this chapter that, among other things, sets medical criteria governing asbestos or silica claims or both, tolls statutes of limitations, and requires persons alleging nonmalignant disease claims to demonstrate physical impairment as a prerequisite to filing or maintaining such claims; and
    12. Sound public policy requires deferring the claims of persons exposed to asbestos or silica and who are not presently impaired in order to give priority to those cases that involve claims of actual and current conditions of impairment; preserve compensation for people with cancer and other serious injuries; and safeguard the jobs, benefits, and savings of workers.
  2. It is the purpose of this chapter to:
    1. Give priority to claimants who can demonstrate actual physical harm or illness caused by asbestos or silica;
    2. Preserve the rights of claimants to pursue asbestos or silica claims if an exposed person becomes sick in the future;
    3. Enhance the ability of the courts to supervise and control asbestos litigation and silica litigation; and
    4. Conserve resources to allow compensation of claimants who have cancer and others who are impaired as a result of exposure to asbestos or silica while securing the right to similar compensation for those who may suffer physical impairment in the future.

(Code 1981, §51-14-1, enacted by Ga. L. 2007, p. 4, § 1/SB 182; Ga. L. 2017, p. 774, § 51/HB 323.)

The 2017 amendment, effective May 9, 2017, part of an Act to revise, modernize, and correct the Code, revised punctuation in paragraphs (a)(1) and (a)(2).

Law reviews.

- For survey article on product liability law, see 59 Mercer L. Rev. 331 (2007). For survey article on trial practice and procedure, see 59 Mercer L. Rev. 423 (2007).

JUDICIAL DECISIONS

Editor's notes.

- In light of the similarity of the statutory provisions, decisions under former O.C.G.A. Ch. 14, T. 51, are included in the annotations for this Code section.

Construction.

- Superior and state courts did not err in entering nearly identical orders which held that because O.C.G.A. § 51-14-1 et seq. required asbestos plaintiffs to provide proof that exposure to asbestos was a substantial contributing factor in their medical condition, it unconstitutionally affected an employee's substantive rights by establishing a new element which did not exist when the original cause of action accrued and, hence, could not be applied retrospectively; moreover, because these requirements and limitations were the heart of the statute, their severance would result in a statute that failed to correspond to the main legislative purpose, or give effect to that purpose. DaimlerChrysler v. Ferrante, 281 Ga. 273, 637 S.E.2d 659 (2006)(decided under former O.C.G.A. Ch. 14, T. 51).

Expert's opinion on causation properly excluded.

- Opinion of the plaintiff's expert, a pathologist, failed the first element of Daubert because the expert relied on the theory that any exposure to the asbestos in the defendant's product would contribute to the development of mesothelioma, yet the expert testified that the theory was essentially untestable and had not been tested. Thus, the expert's testimony was properly excluded under former O.C.G.A. § 24-9-67.1(b)(2) (see now O.C.G.A. § 24-7-702) since the testimony was not the product of reliable principles and methods. Butler v. Union Carbide Corp., 310 Ga. App. 21, 712 S.E.2d 537 (2011).

RESEARCH REFERENCES

ALR.

- Retroactive application of state statutes concerning asbestos liability, 41 A.L.R.6th 445.

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