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Fight looms over so-called asbestos reform legislation

Organizations that represent victims of asbestos exposure are beginning to organize opposition to a bill recently introduced in the United States Congress by two Republicans, Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas and Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona. The bill is touted as helping victims obtain larger payments from asbestos trust funds, but opponents of the legislation have marshalled some convincing arguments showing that the bill actually hurts victims of asbestos exposure.

The bill, commonly known as the Further Asbestos Claims Transparency Act, or FACT Act, would require asbestos trust funds to file quarterly reports with various bankruptcy courts showing the number of claims received, amounts paid out and information about claimants. Opponents are raising special concern about the bill's requirement that trust funds disclose personal information about claimants, including names, partial social security numbers and medical information. Trust fund officials have estimated that they would be required to spend an additional 20,000 hours per year assembling this information. The added burden would slow claims processing and payments and deplete the amount of money available for victims and their families.

The legislation is backed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization that supports opposition to climate change legislation and weakening of workers' compensation programs. The bill is also supported by companies, including Koch Industries and Honeywell that either use asbestos or face significant liability from unresolved liability claims. The fate of the legislation cannot be predicted at this time.

As our last two posts showed, victims of asbestos product exposure are still recovering damages in spite of measures, such as the FACT Act. Anyone who suffers from a disease caused by asbestos, such asbestosis or mesothelioma, or who has lost a loved one to such a disease, can benefit from consulting an attorney who specializes in such claims for an evaluation of the circumstances of the case and an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages.

Source: EcoWatch.com, "The People vs. the Koch-Funded Asbestos Industry," Alex Formuzis, Oct. 20, 2015

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