Congress loves its acronyms for naming laws. A bill pending in the House is name FACT. This stands for the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act (FACT) of 2013. According to the New York Times editorial board, “The bill is supposedly designed to root out fraud and abuse, but there is no persuasive evidence of any significant fraud or abuse.” Supported by House Republicans, the bill appears to a gift to the asbestos industry, designed to create more roadblocks for workers attempting to obtain compensation for asbestos-related diseases, like mesothelioma, that they developed after being exposed to asbestos.
The bill, which appears to be a solution looking for a problem, does serve a real purpose. As the Times notes, allowing “fishing expeditions” by asbestos companies looking for ways to increase the administrative demands on the asbestos trusts. Those trusts were created to pay worker claims for damages caused by asbestos-related disease they have suffered.
The asbestos industry constantly alleges there is “fraud and abuse” in paying the asbestos claims, but there is little more than occasional, anecdotal evidence to support their arguments.
Because asbestos injuries are a slowly accruing environmental disease, the defense plays a shell game, claiming there is no evidence that it is “their” firm. Perhaps they would be happier if asbestos fibers came with serial numbers and they could be extracted from the lungs of injured workers to “prove” their company was the source of the fiber.
This type of legislation seems more designed to protect asbestos companies from liability by increasing burdens on injured workers than it is to prevent virtually nonexistent fraud.
Source: The New York Times, “One-Sided Bill on Asbestos Injuries,” The Editorial Board, June 19, 2013