A big shout out is in order to the New York Times Editorial Board for criticizing the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act (FACT) of 2013. This is a bill that House Republicans have attempted to push through the House Judiciary Committee. The bill would make it more difficult for plaintiffs injured by exposure to asbestos to receive fair compensation they are entitled to under the law. The New York Times Editorial Board came out blazing with their op-ed piece. It reads as follows:
Republicans rammed a bill through the House Judiciary Committee last month that would make it harder for plaintiffs injured by asbestos to get fair compensation. The bill is supposedly designed to root out fraud and abuse, but there is no persuasive evidence of any significant fraud or abuse. Before plunging ahead with this misguided attempt to protect asbestos companies from lawsuits, Congress ought to commission an objective study of whether there is even a problem that needs fixing.
Millions of workers were injured by asbestos over the years and thousands of suits were filed against asbestos companies, which often were aware of the dangers but concealed the risks from workers and the public. Dozens of companies declared bankruptcy and established trusts, financed with company money, to pay the present and future claims against them. The trusts typically pay only a small percentage of the value of a claim. Plaintiffs are also free to sue companies that have not gone bankrupt.
The Republican bill, known as the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act (FACT) of 2013, would allow asbestos companies to demand information from the trusts for virtually any reason, forcing the trusts to devote limited resources to responding to fishing expeditions that will slow the process of paying claims.
The bill would also increase the burden on claimants to supply information. But it puts virtually no burdens on asbestos companies, like disclosing the settlements they have reached with plaintiffs or requiring them to reveal where their products were used and when, so that workers know which companies or trusts might be liable for their injuries.
Fair-minded members of Congress should ask the Government Accountability Office to determine whether there is significant fraud in asbestos claims before enacting a law that makes it harder to obtain fair compensation.
Editorial Board pieces can sometimes underwhelm; other times they can read as quite pedantic. Here, they got it right. Bravo for calling out the ominous legislative attempt here. Here's hoping the rest of the members of Congress will read this piece and look further into this faulty bill. It doesn't even deserve an up or down vote: it needs to be pulled.
Their good work has me reading up on who exactly sits on the NY Times Editorial Board. You can check them out here.