Legislation Favors Asbestos Companies & Hurts Those With Asbestos Diseases
WASHINGTON, DC -- January 27, 2006 -- Four clients of the Brayton Purcell law firm will travel to our nation's capitol next week to make their voices heard against S. 852. This unfair asbestos legislation would deny access to the courts for asbestos victims, who instead would be required to pursue their claims through an asbestos trust fund. Congressional analysts and other government experts predict that the trust fund would run out of money well before all asbestos victims could be compensated. Medical experts question the criteria that the bill uses to identify and classify the diseases related to asbestos.
A Father Suffering From Mesothelioma
One client, David Bakkie, was exposed to asbestos when he worked as an assembler, a lineman and a line construction supervisor. He is 50 years old and has two teenage sons, Christopher and Charles.
Last September, Mr. Bakkie was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that first attacks the membranes surrounding the lungs. The disease is caused by asbestos exposure.
A Ship Rigger's Exposure to Asbestos
Ron Dutton is married and 51 years old. He has two daughters and a granddaughter. For many years, Mr. Dutton worked as a rigger on ships, a job that exposed him to asbestos. Like most other workers, he did not know about the danger to his health and was given no protection. Now he has asbestos-related colon cancer and asbestosis. Asbestosis is a progressive scarring of the lungs that is only caused by exposure to asbestos.
Mr. Dutton says that he is going to Washington to let the Senators know that workers who were exposed to asbestos have real illnesses and have the right to be compensated. He poses this question: "The government didn't get in the way when asbestos manufacturers made huge profits, so why should it make it hard for people like me to be compensated when they become sick from asbestos products?"
An Asbestos Victim's Widow
Joan Nettler Kiss became a widow last year when her husband, John, died of metastatic colon cancer. An insulator for 35 years, John Kiss was an active member of the Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers Local 16 in San Francisco. He had worked in power plants, shipyards, and industrial and commercial sites throughout Northern California. He contracted asbestosis and colon cancer due to his exposure to asbestos at these jobs.
After he retired as an insulator, Mr. Kiss began a second career as an investigator at Brayton Purcell because he wanted to help other asbestos victims. He was very proud of this job. His co-workers came to rely on his extensive knowledge of asbestos products and his ability to put clients at ease. Mr. Kiss eventually became the manager of the firm's Investigations Department.
John Kiss had three children of his own and also helped raise two of Joan's children. He was a proud grandfather to his eight grandchildren. He is sorely missed by his family, friends and co-workers.
A Machinist With Asbestos Lung Cancer
Mr. George Goodyard is married with four daughters. For 34 years, he worked as a machinist in naval and private shipyards. He now has asbestosis and lung cancer as the result of his on-the-job exposure to asbestos. He has had part of his lung removed, and visits his doctor every three months for a check-up and x-rays. He receives a CAT scan every six months, and hopes that his condition does not deteriorate further.
"They knew about asbestos in 1970, but didn't tell us anything about it," Mr. Goodyard said. "We didn't know about the risks we were taking." He also points out that even today, the insulation used in ships may be 30 to 40 years old and contain asbestos. The asbestos can be easily disturbed and become airborne, allowing workers to breathe in asbestos fibers.
Mr. Goodyard has a court date set for later this year. However, if S. 852 becomes law, his asbestos case could be thrown out, and he would have to apply to the asbestos trust fund program instead. The delay would be a hardship for Mr. Goodyard and his family. The asbestos trust fund will not be up and running immediately, and S. 852 creates an unwieldy bureaucracy that may not be efficient or effective.
Protest Against S. 852
S. 852 is extremely bad legislation that will help asbestos-related companies, but harm people with asbestos diseases. Please call or write to your Senators and urge them to vote NO on S. 852. The bill may come before the Senate in early February, so it is important to do this right away. You can find your Senators' names, e-mails, and telephone numbers on the U.S. Senate web site.