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June 26, 2013

FACT Act Needed to Prevent Asbestos Abuses

In a Law 360 op-ed, former Delaware Superior Court Judge Peggy Ableman offers “a unique insight into the inherent unfairness associated with a system that permits plaintiffs’ filing of bankruptcy trust claims to remain secret and undisclosed while these same plaintiffs are actively engaged in asbestos tort litigation.”

She continues:

“Indeed, today, it is not at all unusual for an asbestos personal injury plaintiff to name as many as a hundred defendants as new and additional sources of compensation, many of who have had only minimal responsibility for the exposure-causing injury. These solvent defendants have now been forced to bear a large part of the burden that was previously allocated to the larger manufacturers who have sought relief in bankruptcy.”

Judge Ableman tells of one such case where a plaintiff sued 22 companies, alleging that they were exposed to asbestos by their various products.  However, the plaintiff also submitted 20 claims to bankruptcy trusts, without informing the court as required by Delaware law.

These kind of abuses hurt legitimate asbestos victims, as each improper claim paid by the trusts is money that is not going to deserving victims. And they hurt solvent, job-creating businesses – many with only a peripheral relation to asbestos – that are forced to defend themselves in court without knowing about inconsistent trust claims from plaintiffs.

The Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act is a bill that would require the trusts to file quarterly reports on the names of claimants, thereby helping the trusts and the courts avoid improper claims, protect solvent businesses from lawsuit abuse, and ensure that scarce trust dollars go to the people who actually need them the most.

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