Judge Bolle Statement

Judge Bolle: Senator Shirkey, and Senators of the committee, thank you for allowing me to appear today by video. My health would not allow me to appear in Lansing today. My name is William Bolle, and since June of 1969, I have served as a municipal judge, a district judge, and chief judge of the 52nd district court in the cities of Troy and Clawson. I am the longest-serving judge in Oakland County and the second-longest in the state of Michigan. In 2017, I retired from the bench after I was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, which was caused by my exposure to asbestos decades ago. I continue to battle the disease and underwent extensive thoracic surgery a few weeks ago as part of my treatment plan.

I understand the Michigan Senate is considering a bill intended to increase transparency in the handling of asbestos personal injury cases. A part of that bill requires plaintiffs to provide defendants with copies of all bankruptcy claims and supporting materials submitted to asbestos trusts within 30 days after the initial filing of an asbestos personal injury lawsuit. I understand that under current procedures in Michigan courts, information about bankruptcy claims does not have to be provided to defendants until 180 days before trial. The proposed Bill shortens that time to a mere 30 days after filing the complaint. I believe it will be impossible to gather all of the information and documentation necessary to support bankruptcy claims for all of the trusts where claims can be filed within such a short time period. Since the proposed Bill provides that a plaintiff’s case will either be stayed or dismissed for not giving this information to defendants within 30 days, a plaintiff such as myself will be deprived of due process. Since my terminal disease will continue to run its course while I am prevented from moving my case forward. Plaintiffs like me would be precluded from preserving our own testimony about our cases since dismissals or stays will halt any proceedings such as depositions or other discovery. By the time the required disclosures and Trust certifications are completed, it is likely my disease will have progressed to the point where I will no longer be able to assist in the handling of my case, or to be around to see it settled or tried.

The current system of requiring bankruptcy disclosures 180 days before trial gives me and others in my circumstances a reasonable opportunity to obtain the necessary information to provide transparency in the litigation process, while at the same time allows me the chance to exercise my right to prosecute my claim in a timely fashion. I urge you to consider using the 120-day before trial time limit that has been adopted in similar statutes in the states of Utah, South Dakota, Texas, and West Virginia, as that will provide fairness and due process to victims like myself here in Michigan. Even the National Conference of Insurance Legislators adopted a 120-day before trial disclosure time in its transparency model act approved in July 2017. Thank you.

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