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Bill Could Make it Harder for Those Injured By Asbestos

A bill made it through the House of the Judiciary Committee last month that would make it harder for plaintiffs injured by asbestos to get fair compensation.

The bill was designed to eliminate fraud and abuse, but no evidence that shows any significant fraud or abuse. According to the New York Times Editorial Board, Congress ought to commission a study of whether there is even a problem that needs fixing before protecting asbestos companies.

Millions of workers were injured by asbestos over the years and thousands of suits have been filed against asbestos companies, which were often aware of the dangers but hid them from workers and the public. Many companies, that went bankrupt, established trusts to pay present and future claims against them.

The bill, known as the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act (FACT) would allow asbestos companies to demand information from the trusts for any reason, which will slow the process of paying claims. The bill will also increase the burden on claimants to supply information.

The bill puts no burden on the asbestos companies like requiring them to reveal where their products were used and when, so workers know which companies or trusts might be liable for their injuries.

Examples of consumer fraud and class actions include cases against manufacturers for defective or hazardous products (child safety seats, tobacco, medical devices, and vioxx), toxic torts (asbestos, pesticides and chemicals), securities fraud (churning, failure to diversify and unauthorized trading), employer discrimination (racial, age, gender and worker’s compensation), pyramid schemes, misleading franchise or business opportunities, travel scams, timeshare resale, overcharges, illegal fees, fraudulent telemarketing, and false or misleading advertising claims.

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Source: The New York Times, “One-Sided Bill On Asbestos Injuries,” June 19, 2013.

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