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Asbestos Legislation H.R. 526 & S.327 Will Thwart Justice For Asbestos Victims

asbestos legislationA new asbestos legislation proposed to Congress – “Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act” of 2015 – would limit, or greatly slow down, the ability of asbestos trusts to compensate victims by instituting additional requirements for filing and reporting claims.

We at Kazan Law vehemently oppose this asbestos legislation (H.R. 526 and S. 357), as we do all efforts to hijack the rights of injured workers and their families. Please join us in our fight to defeat this horrendous campaign.

The Facts Behind Asbestos Legislation H.R. 526 and S. 357

The H.R. 526 F.A.C.T. Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas (R-TX-27) on January 26, 2015; A similar bill, S. 357, was introduced at the Senate level by Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) on February 4, 2015. Both bills are currently assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.

The F.A.C.T. Act is sponsored by Republicans in the House of Representatives and Senate. It is also supported by the United States Chamber of Commerce, which listed the bill as one of their top legislative priorities of the 114th legislative session.

H.R.526 & S.357 would require asbestos trusts to publicly disclose information about the settlement terms between trusts and claimants. The information requested and publicly disclosed may include a victim’s name, address, date of birth, last four social security digits, information about children and spouses, employment history, salary history, information about their medical condition, and personal finances.

Interestingly, the corporate defendants would not be subject to similar requirements.

The F.A.C.T. Act – A Trojan Horse Based On A False Premise

On the surface, H.R. 526 & S. 357 appear to be full of good intent, seeking to protect the asbestos trusts against fraudulent claims. However, nestled within the fine print is the ultimate, ulterior motive: To slow down the judicial process.

This isn’t the first time corporate defenders have attempted to make an end run to avoid a claimant’s hard fought compensation. The premise of this particular asbestos legislation is the notion that asbestos trusts are at risk of fraud and “double dipping” by claimants. Which is simply untrue.

There is, in fact, no evidence of any general or systemic fraud with respect to asbestos trusts.  In 2011, the Government Accountability Office investigated possible frauds in the Asbestos Victim Trusts and could not find one example of a fraudulent claim. Besides, there are already safeguards within the trust system to guard against fraudulent Trusts claims, and reject claims that do not meet their burden of proof. Once this burden of proof is met, a claimant/victim is deemed eligible for a settlement.

Asbestos Legislation that Promotes Deadly Delay

However packaged, the F.A.C.T. Act has little to do with transparency; it is yet another strategy by defendant asbestos corporations to avoid responsibility for the deaths and injuries of tens of thousands of Americans caused by their products.

It’s all about prolonging the process. For a corporate defendant, the longer a claim is delayed, the better.

This is because, sadly, the majority of mesothelioma patients will fall ill and die within 6 to 18 months after being diagnosed. In California, if the asbestos victim dies before the case is complete, the corporate perpetrators are exempt from paying for pain and suffering endured; the victim’s family receives far less in overall compensation.

Needless to say, if claimants are now required to extensively disclose personal information, this will take additional time. Even the asbestos trust representatives are opposed to this legislation due to the burdensome administrative costs that would be associated with the additional reporting and compliance requirements.

The longer a case is delayed, the greater the chance the victim will die before the final verdict.

Additional Flaws With The F.A.C.T. Asbestos Legislation

  • Privacy and Identity Theft Risks To Victims: Forced to publicly release the personal information of sick and dying victims, asbestos trusts would unwittingly expose these patients to identity theft and other frauds.
  • Expense & Resource Limitations: Trust representatives would need to spend tens of thousands of additional hours every year to compile the lists and respond to all information requests allowed by this legislation. These burdensome administrative costs would significantly reduce recoveries for future trust claimants.
  • Disproportionate Percentage of Veterans Affected: While veterans account for only 8% of our population, they represent 30% of all mesothelioma victims. A delay in justice would add insult to injury for those who served our country.

In sum, the F.A.C.T. Act would not only significantly delay and deny payments to asbestos victims and their families; it would also require that victims publicly disclose detailed, personal information including medical and financial information.

No one dying from cancer should be forced by Congress to choose between protecting their family’s privacy and ensuring their family has some financial security when they are gone.

Besides, if transparency were truly the aim of the F.A.C.T. Act, the proposed policy would apply to both victims and defendant asbestos companies — but this is not the case.

Help Us Stop Asbestos Legislation H.R. 526 and S. 357

At Kazan Law, we are working hard to fight both F.A.C.T. bills currently before Congress. Won’t you please help us in our cause?

Please take a moment to write Congress by filling out the short form on the EWG Action Fund website.

If you are writing on behalf of an organization, please feel free to use this form letter:

 

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