Flawed Asbestos Legislation Reintroduced, Now in Senate Committee

Specter Tries Again With Another Corporate Bailout for Asbestos Companies

WASHINGTON, DC - June 16, 2006 - Sen. Specter (R-PA) has introduced S. 3274, a bill that creates an inadequate trust fund for asbestos victims while depriving them of access to the courts. Now being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee, S. 3274 is a thinly revised version of S. 852, flawed asbestos legislation that was brought to the Senate floor in mid-February. S. 852 did not receive enough votes to move forward. (SeeAsbestos Bill Fails to Clear Procedural Hurdle for details).

"Once again, this legislation fails to treat victims fairly while making taxpayers, not the wrongdoers, foot the bill," Ken Suggs, President of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA), commented about S. 3274 (Press Release, June 2, 2006). "It provides the asbestos industry with a $20 billion, taxpayer-guaranteed bailout after it knowingly poisoned people, while leaving numerous victims with nothing and others facing impossible bureaucratic hurdles."

S. 3274 leaves these problems unresolved:

  • The proposed asbestos trust fund of $140 billion will run out of money before it can compensate all asbestos victims, according to reports by the Congressional Budget Office, a private consulting group, and other experts. Even worse, there is no clear plan that would allow asbestos victims to regain access to the court system if the asbestos trust fund becomes bankrupt.
  • Funding sources and amounts are not clearly specified; collection procedures are not guaranteed.
  • The standards for classifying asbestos disease types are unfair, inaccurate, and not in tune with modern medicine. For example, lung cancer patients may not receive compensation without evidence of asbestosis or pleural plaques. However, neither pleural plaques nor asbestosis are necessary precursors to asbestos-induced lung cancer.
  • The asbestos exposure requirements are arbitrary. For example, at least 5 years of asbestos exposure are needed to make an asbestosis claim. However, even if a worker has scarred lungs and a medical diagnosis of asbestosis, he or she would not qualify if asbestos exposure was for a period of 4 1/2 years.
  • An unwieldy bureaucracy would delay asbestos claims. Cases already scheduled for trial would not be heard, and unpaid settlements would be thrown out.
  • There is no provision to compensate residents of asbestos-contaminated communities, except for those living in Libby, Montana, the site of a vermiculite plant containing large amounts of asbestos. The vermiculite from the Libby mine was shipped throughout the nation to be processed into soil conditioners, attic insulation and other products. Hundreds of communities were contaminated with asbestos, yet their residents generally would not be able to receive compensation unless they had on-the-job asbestos exposure.

S. 3274 contains new provisions to compensate asbestos victims affected by the events of 9/11 or by Hurricane Katrina. However, although these individuals may now file claims with a special medical panel, there are no guarantees that their claims will be approved. Also, the trust remains underfunded, so the claims may never be paid out.

The Battle Against Unfair Asbestos Legislation

With our main office located in California, asbestos attorneys at Brayton Purcell have been extensively involved in protecting the legal rights of asbestos victims, including injured workers and their families for over 24 years. Many of our clients suffer from asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer, or other asbestos-related diseases. We will provide a free evaluation of your potential case if you have been exposed to asbestos and think you may have developed an asbestos-related disease.