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February 16, 2017

House Judiciary Committee Votes for Sunshine, Justice in Asbestos Litigation

Some may think asbestos litigation is an “old” issue that’s been on the wane. But this isn’t so. Asbestos litigation continues to cost a fortune thanks, in large part, to rampant fraud and abuse. The asbestos trusts alone distribute more than a billion dollars each year.

When Congress established the asbestos trust fund program, they neglected to build in sufficient transparency. This was the equivalent of putting billions of dollars in cash in a closed room, telling trial lawyers where the room is, and then giving those attorneys the keys.

This cloaked system has proven too tempting for some trial attorneys, who (among other tactics) are able to file multiple, inconsistent claims for the same alleged victims to increase their own profit margin.

The results of this fraud and abuse have left less money for victims and driven an increase in lawsuits against solvent companies, as trial lawyers work to maintain their cash flow from these cases.

But Congress is taking action by advancing the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act (H.R. 906), which passed out of the House Judiciary Committee this week. The bill aims to shine a light on these trusts so that compensation goes to legitimate victims.

The FACT Act would:

  • Require asbestos personal injury settlement trusts, which currently operate with little oversight or transparency, to report on their claims.
  • Diminish the damaging economic ripple effect of abuse, while preserving assets for future asbestos claimants.
  • Ensure that real asbestos victims get the money they deserve, now and in the future.

With appropriate transparency and oversight, the trend line on asbestos trust claims should begin to match up with the trend line of asbestos-related illness. The fact that these numbers don’t currently tells Congress everything they need to know. For example, the incidence of mesothelioma, the signature asbestos cancer, are down (per government-generated reports), but asbestos litigation and trust claims continue to increase.

Asbestos compensation must go to legitimate victims, not to trial lawyers. The full House of Representatives must pass the FACT Act to ensure the fraud stops.

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