St. Mary's Law Journal


John G. George


In the 1980s, Texas became a focal point for silicosis litigation. Statutes enacted to limit the liability of employers were not broad enough to limit the liability of silica sand suppliers. The increased number of claims are restricting the ability to receive compensation for those who truly deserve it. While the number of deaths has dropped dramatically, the number of claims has increased. Recently enacted Senate Bill 15 (S.B. 15) is the Texas Legislature’s answer to problems created by the large amount of frivolous silica-related claims. The goal of S.B. 15 is to protect the rights of those with silica related injuries as they pursue their claims, while preventing the judicial system’s limited resources from being wasted by frivolous lawsuits. S.B. 15 is in part a reaction to the latest methods of screening for mass numbers of suits in order to meet business demands. The focus in the analysis of S.B. 15 and the debate over the proper methods of curing the problems concerning silicosis litigation need to be centered on those plaintiffs who are sick and dying from forces beyond their control. The true debate concerning the bill concerns the borderline cases, some of which are legitimate claims of those who will become progressively sicker and are deserving of compensation. The threat of permanently destroying a claimant’s cause of action is effectively offset by providing the claimant the discretion of when to begin the accrual of his cause of action. The fact the plaintiff has to meet certain medical criteria in order to have the privilege of deciding the accrual date of his cause of action is simply another measure to ensure the claimant receives the compensation he deserves by preventing compensation from being spent on those who are undeserving.


St. Mary's University School of Law