Manufactures Push Bill to Avoid Worker Liability for Illness and Suffering

WASHINGTON− The remaining firms that manufactured items containing cancer-causing substance, asbestos, are pushing legislation to remove their remaining legal liability to pay workers for their illnesses and suffering.


Asbestos has killed thousands of shipyard workers, factory workers, construction workers and still kills 10,000 people yearly.


Their bill, HR526, in a GOP-run House Judiciary subcommittee, drew opposition from the AFL-CIO and victims’ advocates, and protests from one pro-victim attorney who testified on February 4. Business representatives denied that they were trying to avoid payment.


Sponsors of the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency act claim it would prevent fraud and direct more money to asbestos victims. AFL-CIO Legislative Director Bill Samuel disagrees. “This legislation would invade the privacy of asbestos victims by posting personal exposure and medical information online and create new barriers to victims receiving compensation for their asbestos diseases,” he wrote in a letter to the lawmakers.


“Hundreds of thousands of workers and family members have suffered or died of asbestos-related cancers and lung disease, and the toll continues,” Samuel said.


A 1994 law set up asbestos bankruptcy trusts to pay the victims while reorganizing the asbestos-manufacturing firms to stay in business.  Though the trusts have $30 billion-$37 billion, there is not enough money to fully pay claims, with the average victim or heirs receiving only one-fourth of the claim’s value for medical suffering and treatment costs.


Elihu Inselbuch, a Caplin & Drysdale attorney who’s represented victims and their heirs and worked with the trusts, brought up the same points, but even more strongly. “These defendants – the only beneficiaries of this bill – are the same companies who for decades have been determined liable for recklessly and willfully exposing unknowing workers and their families to their deadly products,” he said.


Samuel summed up ALF-CIO’s and the workers’ position on the bill. “Congress should be helping the hundreds of thousands of individuals who are suffering from disabling and deadly asbestos diseases, not further victimizing them by invading their privacy and subjecting them to potential blacklisting and discrimination.  The AFL-CIO strongly urges you to oppose HR526,” he told lawmakers.


Source: PAI