House Committee’s FACT Act Vote Discouraging, But There is Still Time to Fight
On May 14, the House Judiciary Committee endorsed a bill to create the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act by a 19-9 vote. Although the committee’s vote is disappointing, there is still time to fight against the Act, which is strongly supported by the asbestos industry.
The FACT Act (HR. 526) is designed to make it incredibly difficult for victims of asbestos-related diseases to obtain compensation from the asbestos manufacturers responsible for their suffering. The Act, which is sponsored by Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas, would force asbestos bankruptcy trust administrators to deliver quarterly reports that disclose information about plaintiffs seeking compensation through lawsuits.
Not only is the FACT Act an incredible invasion of privacy, it would exponentially increase the burdens plaintiffs face when trying to obtain compensation on behalf of either themselves or loved ones who have developed mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
The true motivation behind the Act
While supporters of the legislation claim that it would reduce fraudulent lawsuits, the truth behind their motivation is far more sinister. In a nutshell, the FACT Act would allow asbestos manufacturers facing lawsuits to demand a great deal of sensitive information on plaintiffs, including their work history and history of exposure to asbestos. They could make those requests at any time, and for any reason. As a result, many asbestos victims would likely be discouraged from filing lawsuits, fearing the process would take too long and basically not be worth the effort.
Linda Reinstein, president, CEO and co-founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), summed it up best in her statement decrying the decision of the Republican-dominated House Judiciary Committee:
“Big Asbestos, once again, saw its Washington influence-peddling pay off big. There are more than 12,000 U.S. deaths each year from asbestos-related disease, and this bill does nothing to address that. Instead, it creates new hurdles for victims seeking justice, benefiting the same corporations responsible for causing this national health crisis”
It is ironic, to say the least, that the word “transparency” is part of the name of the Act. For decades, asbestos manufacturers have been anything but, refusing to share information regarding where this deadly material is being imported and used. They also hid the fact they know their products killed people, yet, year after year, they continued to put profits above the health of the general public.
The public posturing of FACT Act supporters is maddening, to say the least. While they claim they are doing the public a great service, the truth is they are doing the opposite. The only group they are interested in helping is, as Reinstein put it, “Big Asbestos,” slowing down the claims process in a heavy-handed attempt to deny compensation to those who not only deserve it, but need it.