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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

House should defeat "delay till they die" act

Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron issued the following statement today concerning the vote by the House Judiciary Committee in favor of the so-called Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act.

With their penchant for Orwellian language, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee have reported to the full House legislation they call the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act.  But were there a truth-in-labeling requirement for legislation, it would be called the “delay till they die act” – because the real intent of this bill is to delay justice for asbestos victims until even more of them die.

As AFJ and other organizations explain in a letter released this week, since at least the 1930s asbestos companies and their insurers have been denying responsibility for the millions of deaths and injuries knowingly caused by this deadly product.  The companies hid the dangers posed by asbestos exposure, lied about what they knew, fought against liability for the harms caused, tried to change the laws that held them responsible, and to this day, they still fight against banning asbestos in the U.S.

In the 1990s, Congress passed legislation designed to ensure at least some compensation to victims even when companies reorganized under the bankruptcy code to free themselves of their asbestos liability.  It established trust funds to compensate victims while those companies reorganized.  This bill would make it more difficult for victims to get compensation by forcing the trusts to use their limited resources to respond to asbestos defense lawyers’ fishing expeditions, and by delaying chronically ill victims’ day in court during those fishing expeditions.

The asbestos industry is not interested in transparency. The bill places lengthy and burdensome new reporting requirements on victims seeking compensation for asbestos-related illnesses, but it has no comparable requirements for the asbestos companies who were responsible for the harm.  The legislation is one-sided, unfair and unnecessary.  It should be defeated.

Read the letter
Read our previous post on this bill
Read more about access to justice

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