April 21, 2005
Specter Files Asbestos Comp Bill
(Reprinted From Confined Space)
After years of meetings, negotiations and false starts, Senator Arlen Specter has finally introduced an asbestos compenation bill. The bill calls for a $140 billion asbestos compensation fund. Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy (VT) is one of the co-sponsors, but many Republicans announced oppostion to the bill.
Judging from the critics and supporters, there still may be a long way to go:
- The AFL-CIO has called for changes in the bill while the United Auto Workers backs it. According to an AFL-CIO press release,
The draft proposal includes some important improvements such as increases in award levels for some disease categories and a bar against any liens on workers compensation awards. At the same time, however, the draft has a number of serious deficiencies that must be corrected. These include the elimination of compensation for a large group of lung cancer victims, without allowing these individuals to document asbestos exposure through CT scans, and the absence of remedies for victims during the startup period before the Fund is able to pay claims. In addition, there are a set of issues, such as the statute of limitations, preemption and the treatment of claims if the Fund sunsets, that will determine whether the compensation system works as intended for deserving claimants.
- Insurers, who would have to pay $46 billion to the fund,
complained the draft would let some asbestos injury claims leak back to the courts instead of being paid by the fund. It also criticized a provision that would prohibit liens on workers' compensation awards to asbestos victims who are also compensated by the fund.
- Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the Senate minority whip, says the $1.1 million award for victims of mesothelioma, a cancer linked to asbestos, is too low. Sen. Durbin also dislikes a provision limiting plaintiffs' attorneys fees to 5% of awards to victims.
- Republican Texas Sen. John Cornyn said he could not support the proposal as written, and Republicans were divided over it.
- Trial lawyers, who are big contributors to the Democratic party, oppose the bill.
- The "Asbestos Study Group" whose members include General Electric Co., General Motors, Honeywell International Inc. and Viacom Inc. has come out in support of the plan.
- The bill is strongly opposed by the Advisory Board of the Mt. Sinai - Irving J. Selikoff Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine. An article sumarizing their position can be found on the NYCOSH website here
NYCOSH has posted the bill here.
More on the pros and cons of the debate later.
- Asbestos Bankruptcy: Not As Bad As It Seems?, April 07, 2005
- Asbestos: Cruel, Deadly and Uncompensated, February 19, 2005
- They Were Killing Us, They Were Killing Our Wives and Children. February 12, 2005
- W.R. Grace Goes To Jail: "Why not all the others?". February 10, 2005
- Asbestos Compensation Hearing Today, January 11, 2005
- Asbestos "Compensation" -- Return of the Living Dead, January 10, 2005
- Asbestos Compensation Bill Crashes, Burns, May 10, 2004
- Senate Blocks Asbestos Comp Bill, April 22, 2004
- Companies Stand To Save Billions On Asbestos Victims Bill, February 4, 2004
- Asbestos Comp: Who Benefits?, July 30, 2003
- Hatch Expected to Introduce Industry's Asbestos Compensation Bill; Stocks Drop, May 22, 2003
Posted by Jordan Barab at April 21, 2005 07:04 AM