Asbestos Legislation AB 597 Will Trample Victims’ Rights
Asbestos legislation now proposed in the California threatens to crush the rights of all mesothelioma patients as well as the rights of other victims of asbestos exposure and their families. This is a very urgent matter: the first vote on Assembly Bill 597 (AB 597) is set for April 28 in the California Assembly Judiciary Committee. We at Kazan Law vehemently oppose this new asbestos legislation and urge you to help us defeat it. Please see how in the information below.
Asbestos Legislation’s Sponsor and Backers
This cruel and harmful asbestos legislative proposal was introduced by Assembly Member Ken Cooley (D- Rancho Cordova). But its real backers are groups that defend corporations. AB 597 is based on model legislation promoted nationwide by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is the corporate-funded organization of conservative state legislators and private sector representatives that promotes limits on government with no regard to the fallout for workers or the environment. ALEC focuses on stripping consumers and workers of their rights in order to maximize profits for corporate members. It is funded by the Koch brothers, who own Georgia-Pacific, a major asbestos defendant.
AB 597, among other things, can eliminate the right of asbestos victims to a fair and speedy trial
AB 597 forces asbestos victims to jump through expensive and time-consuming legal hoops before bringing their case to trial. Delay is the point of this bill – delay which assures that those most ill will die before their case reaches judgment. Mesothelioma, for which the only known cause is asbestos exposure, is a fatal illness. Although it lies dormant for decades after the initial asbestos exposure, once it has progressed enough to be accurately diagnosed the sufferer typically has about a year left to live.
Why Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied For Asbestos Victims
For most victims who are dying from mesothelioma, justice delayed is justice denied. In California, unlike many other jurisdictions, if the person bringing a lawsuit for injuries dies before the case is complete, there is no financial award for the pain and suffering the victim endured. The victim’s family will receive far less in compensation. The corporate perpetrators who caused the victim’s agonizing death are shielded from full accountability and significantly benefit financially from the delays AB 597 creates.
Because mesothelioma victims die soon after diagnosis, they are often eligible for a speedy civil trial under current California law. But their right to a speedy trial will mean nothing if the victim is unable to prepare for trial or if the right to that speedy trial is removed by defendants because of new AB 597 requirements.
How Asbestos Legislation Harms Sick and Dying Asbestos Victims
The lethal hazards of asbestos have been well established since the 1930s. When workers, veterans and others are sick and dying from illnesses caused by asbestos exposure, they can sue in state court the product manufacturers, premises owners, and others who knew about the dangers of asbestos but failed to warn them or provide them with protection from this deadly toxin.
Many companies, in order to shield their assets from lawsuits filed by poisoned workers and their families, set up asbestos trust funds through the bankruptcy court system. Those trusts pay these workers a much smaller amount – pennies on the dollar — than they would have received if a jury decided the case.
The proposed California asbestos legislation forces asbestos victims to investigate and provide to the wrongdoers all information regarding claims for every possible trust – and there are over 60 of them – before the victims can proceed with their case. The actual victims will be required by AB 597 to submit statements under penalty of perjury verifying that they have looked into each asbestos trust for a potential claim. This will delay the trial because of the work involved searching for information – information the defendants already have! And should the victim miss just one of the potential trusts, the wrongdoers can seek delay of any trial date. And that means death before a court judgment can be reached.
How You Can Help Us Stop AB 597
At Kazan Law we are doing everything we can to defeat this new asbestos legislation that would be so detrimental to asbestos victims. But we need your help. Time is of the essence. This bill will be heard for the first time on April 28 and we want to stop it now by encouraging the author to drop the bill.
Please take a moment and write to State Assembly Member Cooley. There are three forms of letters you may find useful. Choose the one that reflects whether you are writing as an individual, a U.S. Armed Services veteran, or on behalf of an organization (the letter from organizations is pre-addressed to the Chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee and if you send it there, your organization will be listed among the many others opposed to AB 597). All are available on our website. Simply click the link.
Asbestos Legislation Opposed By Many Organizations
The California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO; the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California; California Professional Firefighters and the Sacramento Central Labor Council are just some of the groups who are on record as officially opposed to this asbestos legislation. A list is available on our website here. Check back for updates.
Please join these important groups and all of us at Kazan Law in trying to defeat this bill that further hurts asbestos victims who already have been irrevocably hurt, and that further rewards big corporations who are getting away with murder.