NAMIC Reacts to Asbestos Litigation Reform

June 20, 2003

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee began its consideration of S. 1125, the Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution (FAIR) Act of 2003.” Next Tuesday, it is expected that the Committee will reconsider this bill. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, introduced this legislation on May 22.

The majority of the Committee’s discussion centered on the bill’s proposed standard medical criteria and other related medical issues involved in asbestos liability cases.

“Yesterday’s discussion about standard medical criteria was an important start in the Committee’s mark-up process of asbestos liability reform legislation,” said Monte Ward, NAMIC’s federal affairs vice president.

According to Ward, “NAMIC fully supports efforts in Congress to establish standard medical criteria and prioritize compensation for asbestos victims. We support legislation that would make actual impairment an essential element of a claim by requiring evidence of physical impairment and specifies criteria to make such judgments.”

The FAIR Act is intended to create a fairer and more efficient system for resolving the asbestos claims of victims. FAIR would establish a new asbestos court, an asbestos trust fund, and an Asbestos Commission to identify and determine the liability of participating insurers.

The legislation calls for the establishment of a $108 billion trust fund -financed, in part, by insurers and defendant companies – to pay for claims submitted to a special new court by persons suffering from certain asbestos diseases.

“If any trust fund is established, it is important that the new asbestos trust fund be fair, provide for appropriate funding levels, and only require allocations from those companies with true asbestos liability,” continued Ward.

“The current asbestos system is targeting and punishing those companies with only peripheral or no involvement with asbestos-containing materials, and it allows some individuals to sue and obtain compensation when they are not truly injured,” said Ward.

“NAMIC believes that Chairman Hatch’s bill is the ‘best opportunity yet’ to fix the bulging wave of asbestos personal injury litigation filling U.S. courts,” said Ward.

“For decades, asbestos lawsuits have clogged our courts and seriously impacted businesses from all industries—sending over 70 American companies into bankruptcy,” said Ward. “With over 6,000 American companies named as defendants in asbestos cases, and thousands more companies facing potential economic crisis, asbestos liability could ultimately cost the U.S. economy well over $200 billion,” added Ward.

“We look forward to the Committee continuing to examine the asbestos issue. We understand there continues to be some specific issues of the FAIR Act that must be addressed. However, we are hopeful that the current objections to the bill can be resolved and there will be meaningful and fair asbestos reform,” said Ward.

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