United States: Iowa Legislature Introduces Asbestos Litigation Reforms

Last Updated: September 19 2017
Article by Amy Ream

I. Overview

Over more than four decades of asbestos litigation, many former manufacturers and suppliers of asbestos-containing products have since filed for bankruptcy and exited the tort system. 1 While these entities now have the protection of the bankruptcy courts, asbestos bankruptcy trusts have been established to compensate individuals who were exposed to asbestos from their products. Individuals alleging harm by exposure to asbestos products can seek compensation both through the tort system and by filing claims with qualifying asbestos bankruptcy trusts.

Because there is no coordination between these two systems for recovery, however, several states have adopted measures to ensure that a plaintiff's exposures to asbestos from bankrupt entities' products, and any compensation received from trusts, can be considered in allocating fault against solvent defendants in the tort system. 2 In March 2017, Iowa joined South Dakota as the second state this year to adopt such measures. Iowa Senate File 376 (the "Act") requires asbestos plaintiffs to file and disclose all available trust claims in the course of any pending lawsuit and permits defendants to introduce those materials at trial.

In the same legislation, Iowa also enacted several other reforms applicable to asbestos claims. Notably, the Act limits the potential scope of liability for certain asbestos defendants, precluding claims arising out of injuries from asbestos-containing materials made and sold by third parties. Plaintiffs alleging non-malignant diseases, moreover, will now be required to make a prima facie showing of causation before their claims can proceed. These measures go into effect immediately and mark a significant change for asbestos claims in Iowa.

II. Iowa Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Claims Transparency Act

The first chapter of the Act, entitled the "Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Claims Transparency Act," imposes the following measures to account for plaintiff's recoveries from asbestos bankruptcy trusts ("trusts") in Iowa tort claims.

  • Required filings and disclosures

Under the Act, plaintiffs seeking damages for asbestos-related injuries must identify and file claims with any qualifying trusts within 90 days of filing suit. 3 On or before this 90-day mark, plaintiffs must provide a sworn statement signed by both the plaintiff and plaintiff's attorney that confirms that the plaintiff has investigated and filed all trust claims available to him. For any claims that have been filed, the plaintiff must indicate the status of that claim and disclose any documents submitted or received in connection with the claim. Any subsequent updates, such as filing an additional trust claim, must be reported within 30 days. Defendants are also permitted to seek relevant discovery from the trusts.4

  • Use of trust information at trial

No later than 30 days before trial, the court must enter into the record a document identifying all trust claims made by the plaintiff. Trust claim materials and any trust governance documents received are presumed to be relevant and authentic and are admissible at trial. These materials can be used support a jury's finding that the plaintiff may have been exposed to products for which the trust is responsible.

In any asbestos action in which damages are awarded and setoffs are permitted under the applicable law, defendants are entitled to setoffs or credits in the amount the plaintiff has been awarded from the trust. If trial commences before a particular trust claim is resolved, there is a rebuttable presumption that the plaintiff will receive compensation from that trust.

  • Provisions to ensure compliance

The Act also incorporates various provisions to ensure plaintiffs' compliance. Claims cannot be set for trial less than 180 days before the initial trust disclosures are received. If a defendant identifies an available trust claim that has not been filed, the defendant may file a motion to stay the action until the plaintiff files the claim or rebuts that it is entitled to compensation from that trust. 5Finally, the court has authority to impose sanctions if a plaintiff fails to provide relevant information, including dismissal of the lawsuit. Even if the judgment has already been entered, the court has authority to reopen and adjust that judgment to account for later-filed trust claims. 6

III. Significant Provisions in the Asbestos and Silica Claims Priorities Act

Following on these transparency-related measures, the Iowa legislature included a series of other reforms in a chapter entitled the "Asbestos and Silica Claims Priority Act." Two provisions that are likely to have significant impact on future claims, as discussed below, include a limitation on liability for products made and sold by third parties and additional threshold requirements for plaintiffs claiming non-malignant diseases to commence suit.

  • Limiting liability for products made and sold by others

The Act sets forth the following limitation on liability for third-party products:

A defendant in an asbestos action . . . shall not be liable for exposures from a product or component part made or sold by a third party.

Asbestos-related lawsuits typically involve various claims against defendants that arise out of products those defendants did not make or sell. For example, premises owners or contractors are commonly sued in connection with asbestos-containing materials used at the plaintiff's worksite that were made and sold by others. Even certain product manufacturers, such as makers of pumps and valves, are often alleged to be responsible for asbestos-containing materials made and sold by others that were used with or near the defendants' products. As written, the Act precludes liability against these defendants and could considerably limit the number of viable defendants in future claims.

  • New requirements for cases involving nonmalignant claims 

For individuals seeking compensation for non-malignant diseases, such as asbestosis, the Act requires that the claim first be compensable. Specifically, no action can be brought "in the absence of prima facie evidence that the exposed person has a physical impairment for which asbestos exposure was a substantial contributing factor."

Along with the complaint, these plaintiffs now must provide a detailed narrative medical report and diagnosis signed under oath by a "qualified physician" as defined by the Act, as well as a sworn information statement. These documents must include specified information regarding the plaintiff's diagnosis, the nature and extent of his exposures to asbestos, and a detailed review of his medical history. The qualified physician must conclude that the plaintiff's exposure to asbestos was a "substantial contributing factor" to his impairment and "not more probably the result of other causes."

If the plaintiff fails to make this prima facie showing, the court is required to dismiss the plaintiff's claims without prejudice. Defendants may also challenge the adequacy of the plaintiff's showing before trial.

IV. Conclusion

The Act creates new requirements for plaintiffs filing asbestos-related lawsuits in Iowa while potentially limiting the number of viable defendants in each case. While these provisions are likely to have a significant effect on future claims pending in Iowa, Iowa represents a relatively small proportion of the asbestos claims pending across the country. It remains to be seen whether legislatures in other states will look to Iowa's lead as a mechanism to manage the asbestos docket.


1 See In re Garlock Sealing Tech., LLC, 504 B.R. 71, 83–84 (W.D. Bankr. 2014).

2 Georgia, Ohio, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Texas, Arizona, Tennessee, Utah, South Dakota, and North Dakota have adopted similar measures.

3 For claims initiated before the Act, however, plaintiffs can file within 90 days from the effective date of the Act.

4 The Act states that plaintiffs must provide any necessary consent to allow defendants to obtain this information.

5 Even if a plaintiff is entitled to compensation, he can alternatively show filing is not practicable because any compensation received would not exceed the cost of pursuing the claim.

6 This is provided, however, that any motion seeking relief is filed within a "reasonable time" and not more than one year after judgment is entered.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.