Asbestos bill OK'd by legislature Governments stand to collect millions

April 04, 1991|By David Conn | David Conn,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS — An article in yesterday's Business section about a bill affecting owners of buildings with asbestos in them incorrectly named the sponsor of the bill. In fact, the bill was introduced at the request of Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

The Sun regrets the error.

ANNAPOLIS -- A bill worth potentially millions of dollars to state and local governments looking to recover the costs of removing asbestos from public buildings received final passage from the General Assembly yesterday.

The legislation, similar to a bill Gov. William Donald Schaefer vetoed last year, resulted from more than six months of negotiations between the governor's office, plaintiffs' attorneys, Maryland's counties and the companies that used to manufacturer asbestos products.


"I think it's a fair compromise," said David Iannucci, Mr. Schaefer's chief legislative officer. The material, used for decades as an insulation product, is now known to cause debilitating and fatal diseases when ingested in the lungs or the stomach.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Norman R. Stone, D-Baltimore Co., would extend beyond the normal 20 years the right of governments to sue asbestos product manufacturers for repairs buildings "infected" with asbestos. The bill allows those government entities to file suit for buildings opened as long ago as 1953, but it imposes a deadline of July 1, 1993, for filing such suits.

Under the legislation, counties in Maryland would be allowed the exception to the "statute of repose," the law that governs lawsuits against building owners and manufacturers. An amendment to the bill also extends the new time limits to private colleges and secondary schools.

The bill also gives the right to sue to some individuals who had been excluded by the repose law. Those people include janitors, teachers and others who spent time in "infected" public buildings and schools. Representatives for government groups in Maryland have said the bill could allow them to seek as much as $50 million more in asbestos removal costs than the statute of repose currently allows them.

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