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March 4, 2003

Chamber Urges Congress to Solve Crippling Asbestos Crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 5, 2003 – The United States Chamber of Commerce commended U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) for holding hearings to address the asbestos litigation crisis that has bankrupted dozens of companies and put thousands out of work.

“Chairman Hatch deserves credit for taking on the daunting and difficult task of finding a legislative solution to the asbestos litigation crisis in America,” said Stanton D. Anderson, executive vice president and chief legal officer of the U.S. Chamber. “Our hope is that the Senate Judiciary Committee, and indeed the entire U.S. Congress, will accept U.S. Supreme Court Justice Souter’s challenge to provide a legislative remedy for ‘the elephantine mass of asbestos cases’ that are crippling our economy.”

Today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, “The Asbestos Litigation Crisis Continues – It is Time for Congress to Act,” featured testimony from a variety of witnesses suggesting ways to stem the rising tide of asbestos related lawsuits.

Asbestos litigation has bankrupted more than 60 companies and has put 60,000 people out of work. The cost of asbestos litigation has been $54 billion so far, and total liability could pass $275 billion if no solution is found. A recent U.S. Chamber-commissioned study by NERA Economic Consultants also showed that there will be as much as $2 billion in additional costs due to plant closures and mass layoffs. Secondary impacts lead to reduced local real estate values, decreased per capita income, and lower federal, state and local tax receipts. Displaced workers also face higher costs for health insurance and retraining.

While a number of proposals are being considered on how to solve the asbestos litigation problem, the U.S. Chamber is urging all interested parties to develop a unified set of core principles that should be contained in any legislation.

“The challenge before Congress is to craft an asbestos litigation reform bill that provides the truly injured with fair compensation and protects innocent companies from devastating lawsuits,” Anderson added. “To do so would greatly help our economy while ensuring justice for all affected parties.”

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