WASHINGTON, D.C. -- August 29, 2003 -- The Senate Judiciary Committee has amended the Hatch asbestos bill, S.B. 1125, which establishes a trust fund and payout schedule for asbestos claims. We have provided the full text of the bill, including our annotations of selected provisions.
S.B. 1125 will go before the full Senate in September. As we previously reported, we consider S.B. 1125 to be harmful to asbestos victims and a bail-out for asbestos product manufacturers.
The Senate Judiciary Committee's version of S.B. 1125 still contains many problems:
- Creates rigid medical criteria that precludes compensation for many who have been seriously injured by asbestosis and other forms of asbestos disease (Title I, Subtitle C, Sec. 121(d)).
- Establishes ten levels of asbestos disease, requiring a certain number of years of "substantial occupational exposure" to asbestos in order to file a claim within a level. The number of required years does not necessarily correspond with the actual existence or severity of the asbestos disease at each level (Title I, Subtitle C, Sec. 121(d)).
- For claims purposes, arbitrarily defines occupational exposure to asbestos by halving the value of asbestos exposure from 1976 through 1986 and valuing post-1986 amounts at one-tenth. These restrictions unfairly burden those who were exposed to asbestos after 1975, and has no real connection to the degree of illness. (Title I, Subtitle C, Sec. 121(a)(16)).
- Provides a payout schedule at each level of asbestos disease ranging from $20,000 for "mixed disease" to $1 million for mesothelioma. These amounts do not adequately cover the medical expenses, financial losses, and suffering of asbestos victims and their families. They also provide lower compensation levels than generally available in the judicial system, particularly for asbestos lung cancer victims (Title I, Subtitle D, Sec. 131).
- Allows a total amount of contributions by asbestos defendants and insurers that is not sufficient to cover current and future asbestos claims (Title II, Subtitle A, Sec. 202).
- Eliminates an asbestos victim's right to a jury trial (Title IV, Sec. 403).
- Voids current asbestos settlements that are not yet fully paid, trial jury verdicts, and court decisions, except those that were no longer subject to appeal (Title IV, Sec. 403).
We urge you to call your Senators to ask them to vote "No" on S.B. 1125, which limits the rights of asbestos victims while doing nothing to ensure that they are adequately and timely compensated for their losses.