The FACT Act (HR 4369) is not exactly splashed on newsstand covers, but for mesothelioma victims it is breaking news in terms of determining the legal process for outcomes of all future asbestos litigation. If the act passes it could make lawsuits filed by asbestos victims very difficult to win.
On the surface, the FACT act claims to promote “transparency” in processing asbestos litigation claims. Naturally transparency is of utmost urgency when dealing with an industry still trying to convince the world that asbestos is “safe” in “controlled” amounts.
The current system is gridded to provide monetary compensation for victims who can prove they were unlawfully exposed to asbestos. The money for such monetary settlements typically comes from asbestos trust funds— set up with funds gleaned from bankruptcy assets when asbestos companies fold because they cannot afford to pay astronomical damages for such allegations.
When someone develops a grave illness medically linked to asbestos exposure (including cancers such as mesothelioma and certain types of lung cancer), the person is sometimes required, but certainly encouraged, to pursue legal recourse from asbestos trusts.
The FACT Act, however, lends another meaning to the word “trust”— trust, now, referring to the person who is owed damages— and it places heavy new burdens on these plaintiffs to prove they merit allocation of funds.
The companies responsible for a person’s illness in the first place would be allowed to demand endless information from asbestos trusts (victims)— anytime and for any reason.
The idea, at least on paper, is to limit trust fund abuse. But the real object of the game is to keep the claims from being paid at all. The trust fund process has never been abused or accused of being mishandled, so it seems crazy to think that those authoring this legislation are truly concerned about “transparency.” What the bill will truly do is slow down an already arduous process and place limitless power in the hands of those whose objectives are corrupt.
Today, May 10, 2012, the U.S. House of Representatives is holding a hearing on the FACT Act.
Bottom line: the FACT Act is a negative for mesothelioma victims. The bill would make the asbestos trust fund process endlessly tedious in order to discourage people from making claims in the first place; or, if filed, winning will be against the odds.
We’ll keep you updated with the latest on the FACT Act