The American Association for Justice (AAJ) says legislation pending in the U.S. House of Representatives could make it harder for asbestos victims to find justice by delaying claims and helping asbestos manufacturers and other companies avoid liability.
According to the legislation, H.R. 982, known as the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2013, would “amend title 11 of the United States Code to require the public disclosure by trusts established under section 524(g) of such title, of quarterly reports that contain detailed information regarding the receipt and disposition of claims for injuries based on exposure to asbestos; and for other purposes.” The bill is sponsored by Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX).
In a news release, AAJ calls the bill “offensive” and “unnecessary.” AAJ CEO Linda Lipsen says in a statement, “This is unnecessary legislation that would allow the asbestos industry to delay and deny justice for dying asbestos victims. It is offensive that the same corporations that hid the dangers of asbestos from the public for decades are now turning to Congress and asking for ‘transparency’ in order to avoid accountability.”
The bill’s supporters, which include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, argue that the bill will help prevent fraud and abuse in the asbestos trust system.
But Lipsen and the AAJ say the legislation would “allow asbestos defendants to bury the trusts in information requests, no matter how unnecessary or irrelevant,” which would significantly slow the process.
Asbestos diseases include mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs or abdomen and, rarely, the heart. There is no known cure.