Update on Asbestos Legislation

S.B. 2290 Benefits Asbestos Companies

WASHINGTON, D.C.—July 23, 2004—Sen. Bill Frist (R–TN) is still attempting to push through legislation that would deprive asbestos victims of their day in court and require them to seek compensation through a national asbestos trust fund. SB 2290 would also wipe out pending asbestos settlements, creating a windfall for asbestos–affiliated companies.

Democrats, Republicans, labor, and industry have been at odds over the size of the trust fund, which would be financed by asbestos–affiliated companies and their insurers. Sen. Frist has now suggested a fund of $140 billion, including $4 billion from trust funds already set up by bankrupt asbestos companies. Sen. Tom Daschle (D–SD) says that he will discuss the Frist proposal with other Democrats (Sacramento Bee, July 20, 2004).

Last month, Sen. Daschle had proposed the creation of a larger asbestos fund of $145 billion, which would include $4 billion from existing company trusts for asbestos victims (Kansas City Star, June 24, 2004). In May of this year, a federal appeals court judge mediated talks between Sen. Daschle and Sen. Frist, but the two leaders could not reach an agreement. At that time, the highest amount proposed for the fund by Sen. Frist was $124,000. The Senate Judiciary Committee had originally suggested about $153 billion, and labor leaders have argued for much higher amounts than those contained in the current Frist proposal.

Besides providing a trust fund that may be inadequate to compensate asbestos victims, SB 2290 (formerly SB 1125) contains other serious flaws. The fund assigns dollar values to different categories of asbestos diseases ranging from asbestosis to the cancer mesothelioma. However, these amounts are much less than what has been available through the court system and may not be enough to cover the medical expenses, financial losses, and suffering of asbestos victims. Also, those who are on the verge of having their cases resolved would be forced to begin the process of going through an unwieldy bureaucracy in order to obtain compensation.

At Brayton Purcell, we have worked hard for the defeat of SB 2290. This legislation harms asbestos victims and their families and is little more than a bailout for asbestos–affiliated companies. We will continue to fight against SB 2290 and similar legislation, and keep you informed of any new legislative developments. If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos–related disease and want information about your current legal options, please contact our asbestos lawyers. We have been successfully advocating for asbestos victims for over 20 years, and work aggressively to protect the legal rights of our clients.