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Asbestos Bill, S. 852, Harms Asbestos Victims & Their Families

Asbestos Victims Organizing Against S. 852

NOVATO, CA -- August 5, 2005 -- Lee Marsigli has written and mailed over 100 letters opposing the asbestos bill, S. 852. The former Navy mechanic and longshoreman suffers from asbestosis, a painful scarring of the lungs caused by asbestos exposure.

Lee recalls loading and unloading raw asbestos aboard ships during the 40 years that he worked on the waterfront. He also came into contact with asbestos during his Navy career when he repaired asbestos-containing aircraft brakes. Now retired, Lee starts each day using an inhaler or "puffer," hoping that the spray medication will help clear his congested lungs and ease his severe shortness of breath. Sadly, there is no cure for asbestosis.

Stella Queen lost her husband Robert to asbestos-related lung cancer. He was only 55 years old, and the father of two adult children, Loren and Julie. Robert was a union contractor for 25 years. His jobs included insulator and sheet metal worker.

Stella writes a letter a day to newspapers explaining her opposition to the asbestos bill. She has also organized friends, relatives, and neighbors to form letter-writing groups. "It was something that I had to do, " Stella says of the writing and organizing process. "It came naturally. I strongly believe that this bill should be defeated."

Getting Out the Word About the Asbestos Company Bail-Out Bill

Brayton Purcell represents both Stella and Lee in their asbestos cases. Our law firm is getting out the word about the flaws in S. 852, urging clients and the public to take a stand against the legislation. We have tracked S. 852's progress, posted stories about the bill on our web sites, written to government officials, and sent e-mail and sample letters to clients to help them become more active in the battle against its passage.

Our campaign has paid off. So far, Stella's groups have sent letters to over 29 states, and Stella has been interviewed by her local newspaper. Various clients have gotten letters published in newspapers. And the grassroots effort has caught on, as more and more people are writing and calling their representatives in Washington, D.C.

What Do Asbestos Victims Stand to Lose?

Why are asbestos victims so set against S. 852? The bill purports to help them by establishing a trust fund to pay out asbestos claims. However, the size of the fund is inadequate, and the money may run out before all deserving and injured claimants and their families are compensated.

People would lose the right to a jury trial. If an asbestos case was scheduled for trial, it would not be heard. If a settlement was about to be paid out, it would be thrown out.

Instead, the asbestos victim would begin the case from scratch, facing a long bureaucratic process under the trust fund system. The new system would not be up and running for at least two years, and some claimants might have to wait much longer. That may not be soon enough for families of those with mesothelioma and other asbestos cancers.

Under S. 852, the standards and medical criteria for proving that one has a specific type of asbestos-related disease are based on politics rather than on science. For those fortunate enough to only have mild asbestos disease at this time, and who can now elect to have a jury determine what it is worth to be short of breath and unable to have a normal life, there is no remedy under S. 852 except limited medical monitoring. These asbestos victims would have to wait until they were very sick before they could file a claim. The bill is also unfair for lung cancer victims. They must meet the additional requirement of having asbestosis or lung scarring to show that their lung cancer was related to asbestos, even though that is not required by modern medical science or by the judicial system. Finally, although individual susceptibility varies greatly, S. 852 ignores this fact and requires asbestos victims to have been exposed to asbestos for what is often an arbitrary number of years to quality within various disease categories.

Who Wins If S. 852 Passes?

Who would win if S. 852 passes? According to one report, the list includes at least 10 asbestos product manufacturers that have filed for bankruptcy plus Dow Chemical, Ford, General Electric, General Motors, Honeywell, Pfizer, and Viacom. Their contributions to asbestos victims would drop by over $20 billion should S. 852 become law, the study says (Public Citizen, May 2005). Overall, asbestos companies would see their total payments on behalf of asbestos victims decline by margins ranging from 40% to 100%. Companies who had previously agreed to pay billions to settle their asbestos liabilities will have their contributions capped at several hundred million dollars. All at the expense of asbestos victims. No wonder many have referred to S. 852 as the "asbestos company bail-out bill." Clearly, it is a boon for asbestos companies, but a bane for ordinary workers.

What Can I Do to Help?

You can help defeat this unfair and mean-spirited bill. We have names, addresses, and other information for newspapers throughout the nation that should be interested in hearing your opinion. Please contact us if you wish to receive a sample letter opposing S. 852 as well as our list of newspapers.

We also urge you to contact your Senators and tell them to vote NO on S. 852. You can find your Senators' names, e-mails, and telephone numbers on the U.S. Senate web site.

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