Senator says House-passed legislation would hurt asbestos victims and slow down asbestos claims process
WASHINGTON, D.C. –(ENEWSPF)–February 3, 2016. At a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today said that legislation – the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act – passed by the House of Representatives would penalize Americans who are sick and dying from asbestos exposure, many of whom are veterans, and would be an unwarranted giveaway to big companies that made products with asbestos. Senator Durbin’s opening statement can be viewed on his YouTube page.
“An estimated 10,000 – 15,000 Americans die each year from asbestos-related diseases and people are still getting sick. Dozens of countries have banned asbestos, but it is not banned in the United States,” said Durbin. “As companies continue to import hundreds of tons of asbestos into the U.S. each year, workers, first responders and others continue to be exposed, especially when buildings are renovated or demolished. The FACT Act puts onerous burdens on victims and asbestos trusts, but does nothing to protect innocent Americans from exposure to asbestos. And don’t forget, this is a veterans’ issue. Thirty percent of all asbestos victims are veterans. That’s why many of the major veterans groups oppose this bill.”
Following today’s hearing, Durbin met with victims, family members and veterans impacted by asbestos-related illnesses in his Washington, DC office.
Under the FACT Act, if an asbestos victim wants to seek compensation from one of the 60 bankruptcy trusts that were set up by asbestos companies to compensate victims, he or she must compromise his or her own privacy. The FACT Act requires a public database to be compiled by trusts of victims’ names, identifying information, exposure history, claim information and compensation. This registry of sick Americans would be ripe for abuse by cybercriminals and phishers. The information in the registry could also be used to discriminate against victims when it comes to employment and loans.
The FACT Act also allows asbestos companies to demand any information they want from an asbestos trust at any time about any trust claimant. This would allow defendants to drag out litigation through endless information requests to the trusts while slowing down the ability of trusts to process claims, as the trusts would have to spend thousands of hours complying with information requests. Victims would die while waiting for relief.
There are a broad range of groups opposed to the bill, including: AMVETS; the Military Officers Association of America; the Military Order of the Purple Heart; the Vietnam Veterans Association; the Association of the United States Navy; the U.S. Army Warrant Officers Association; the International Association of Fire Fighters; AFL-CIO; the National Education Association; the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization; and many other veterans, consumer, labor, environmental, and privacy groups.
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