WASHINGTON, D.C. -- June 27, 2003 -- The so-called "Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act of 2003" (S.B. 1125) is now being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill would create a trust fund for asbestos victims and establish set pay-out schedules based on the different types of asbestos diseases. However, the bill greatly benefits asbestos product manufacturers while shortchanging asbestos victims. These are just some of the glaring problems S.B. 1125 would create:
- abolishes over 200,000 lawsuits currently pending in state and federal courts throughout the country;
- denies future asbestos victims the right to a trial by jury and establishes an unwieldy federal compensation system in its place;
- provides a payment schedule which does not adequately cover medical expenses, financial loss, and suffering of asbestos victims, and provides lower compensation levels than historically available in the judicial system;
- establishes rigid medical requirements that preclude compensation for many who have been seriously injured by asbestosis and asbestos-caused pleural scarring;
- significantly delays compensation for many victims of asbestos-related disease and their families while the new system is being established;
- provides inadequate funding at the outset to deal with the initial backlog of over 200,000 pending claims, causing even further delays in compensating victims;
- reduces contribution levels for some companies well below what they have already agreed to pay to asbestos victims, creating a windfall for the companies and their insurers at the expense of the victims and their families;
- drastically reduces payments for companies that are in bankruptcy and that had agreed to pay most of their value to asbestos victims. In the case of the manufacturer, Halliburton, settlement agreements releasing the company from liability in exchange for payments to asbestos victims would become void.
A recent amendment before the Senate Judiciary Committee could add as much as $45 billion to the proposed $108 billion asbestos trust fund if the claims of asbestos victims deplete the fund. However, this total amount is still well under the Congressional Budget Office estimate of the money needed to fund a program for asbestos claimants. Although the members of the Committee agreed on the increased trust fund amount, they are still discussing the pay-out schedule for victims of the various types of asbestos-related diseases.
Make Your Opinion Known
The full text of S.B. 1125 is on the Thomas Legislative site. (Scroll to Bill Number, and search on S.B. 1125). We urge you to call or write your Senators to ask them to vote "No" on this bill, which is little more than a bailout for asbestos manufacturers and their insurance companies.