Introduced by Assembly Member Ken Cooley
The California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California, and the Sacramento Central Labor Council are just some of the groups concerned about a very bad bill, AB 597, by Assembly Member Ken Cooley (Dem AD-8 Rancho Bernardo).
Get the AB 597 FACT SHEET.
AB 597 victimizes twice those who become ill with an asbestos-related disease. It devastate their families because the bill block the ability to recover fair compensation. Mesothelioma is a disease caused only by asbestos. Its victims commonly survive less than a year after diagnosis.
WHO IS IMPACTED by this LEGISLATION? Construction and other tradesmen and women, maintenance workers, mechanics, etc., in refineries, power plants, schools, and in buildings during demolition or remodeling, etc., continue to be at risk for asbestos-related diseases. Although Cal/OSHA has regulations requiring protection for exposed workers, one of the most difficult regulations to enforce effectively relates to monitoring for airborne hazards such as asbestos. As well, many workers, particularly low wage immigrant workers who may work for unscrupulous contractors, continue to be exposed to asbestos.
VETERANS are IMPACTED. Vets are 30% of all mesothelioma patients. Mesothelioma is caused only by asbestos. There are 25 million US vets. Although they represent just 8% of our population, they are an astonishing 30% of all known mesothelioma deaths. California ranks first in the country overall for mesothelioma and asbestos related deaths and is alone home to almost 2 million vets. These vets were often exposed while actively serving our country. Requiring every plaintiff to file against every trust – even if the plaintiff doesn’t want to do so – ultimately reduces the amount of funds in the trust that a veteran might seek. Veterans deserve justice because they have fought for all of us. If you are a veteran, you can send this veteran model letter to Assembly Member Cooley.
WHO IS BEHIND THIS BILL? AB 597, sponsored by a group that defends corporations, 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 advances free-market enterprise, limited government, and federalism. It focuses on stripping consumers and workers of their rights in order to maximize profits for corporate members.
HOW DOES THE BILL HURT ASBESTOS VICTIMS? When workers and veterans and others are ill and dying from exposures to asbestos, they may sue in state court the product manufacturers, premises owners, and others who knew since the 1930’s about the dangers of asbestos but failed to warn or provide protection from this deadly toxin. In addition to a state court lawsuit, some companies have set up trust funds to process asbestos claims — they admitted their liability and asked a bankruptcy court to reorganize which allowed them to set aside funds to pay for the harm their asbestos caused and also to protect their assets. These funds, however, pay pennies on the dollar.
This bill is designed to force asbestos victims to jump through expensive and time-consuming legal hoops before they can even prepare their main case. Delay is the point of this bill – delay which assures that those most ill will die before their case reaches judgment.
Because mesothelioma victims die soon after diagnosis, they are often eligible for a speedy civil trial. But a speedy trial means nothing if the victim is unable to prepare for court due to delays required by AB 597 — which forces the victim to prepare every possible asbestos trust claim — there are over 60 possible trusts and victims may be eligible for a relatively small number of these but are required by AB 597 to submit statements under penalty of perjury that each asbestos trust has been evaluated for a potential claim. Delaying the trial date often means death before the court judgement.
So for the most ill victims, for those who are dying, 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 RECOVERY for the pain and suffering the victim endured. The victim’s family receives far less in compensation. And the corporate bad actors who poisoned the victim are shielded from full accountability and receive a windfall by the delays AB 597 creates.
YOUR HELP IS NEEDED. Please write to Assembly Member Ken Cooley, the bill author, to oppose AB 597. This individual model letter can be used by any individual – and if you are from Mr. Cooley’s district, you can let him know. Also, if you are a veteran, you can send this veteran model letter to Assembly Member Cooley. Here also is an organizational model letter you can use if you represent an organization – this letter is addressed to the Chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee and if you send it there, your organization will be listed as in OPPOSITION to AB 597.
Please also share with us a copy of any letter you submit so we can alert you as to what is happening with this legislation. Email your letter to us or fax it to (510) 835-4913.
Keep up with what is happening regarding AB 597. The bill will be heard in the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Tuesday morning April 14. In order to make sure you have the most recent version of any bill, you can sign up for alerts on the web. Enter the bill number you wish to track (and indicate whether it is an Assembly bill (AB) or a Senate bill (SB)). You can then subscribe by clicking on the button near the bottom of the page and providing your email address. You can also download or print various versions of the bill and other information about the bill such as the bill analyses or the votes.
ORGANIZATIONS OPPOSING AB 597:
–California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform
-California Alliance for Retired Americans
-California Conference of the Amalgamated Transit Union
-California Conference of Machinists
-California Employment Lawyers Association
-California Labor Federation AFL-CIO
-California Professional Firefighters
-California Teamsters Public Affairs Council
-Congress of California Seniors
-Consumer Attorneys of California
-Consumer Federation of California
-Engineers & Scientists of California IFPTE Local 20
-Green Democratic Club of Sacramento County
-IFPTE Local 21
-International Longshore and Warehouse Union
-Labor + Employment Committee of the National Lawyers Guild
-Latino Democratic Club of Sacramento County
-Lawson Stuart, Chair, Veterans Caucus of the California Democratic Party
-Sacramento Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO
-State Building & Construction Trades Council of California
-Utility Workers Union of America Local 132
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Fran Schreiberg (510) 302-1071 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Lea-Ann Tratten or Jacquie Serna (916) 442-6902