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ATLANTA--The Georgia Supreme Court has upheld six lower-court decisions holding that Georgia's 2005 asbestos claims law cannot be applied retroactively.
Monday's decision in which all but one of the justices concurred--that one justice having not taken part in the case--noted that the asbestos claims statute "provides for the dismissal of any asbestos claim pending on April 12, 2005," unless the plaintiff can provide "prima-facie evidence of physical impairment" within 180 days of April 12, 2005. The statute holds that to do so, the plaintiff had to prove that exposure to asbestos was a "substantial contributing factor to the exposed person's medical condition," according to the court.
But before the new act became law, plaintiffs only had to demonstrate that exposure to asbestos was a "contributing factor to his or her medical condition," according to the court. In six cases, lower state courts found that applying the heightened standard to claims already in the legal system violated claimants' constitutional rights by establishing, as the state Supreme Court put it, "a new element to (their) claim, one that did not exist when the original course of action accrued."