GOP Introduces Asbestos Litigation Reform in U.S. Senate

April 8, 2004

Asbestos litigation reform legislation introduced Wednesday by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) represents a significant step forward in the effort to address the concerns of victims as well as the business community, according to the American Insurance Association (AIA). However, AIA will reportedly continue pushing for further, meaningful improvements to the bill as Senate debate approaches.

“We applaud Leader Frist, Chairman Hatch, and the other senators on both sides of the aisle who have dedicated so much time and energy to the asbestos reform effort,” said Robert Vagley, AIA president. “Enactment of real reform is critical for the truly sick victims of asbestos, for other stakeholders in the much-abused litigation system, and for the U.S. economy. We are gratified and encouraged that legislation is moving to the full Senate for consideration.”

Property-casualty insurers have been among the leading advocates of reform legislation that would reportedly ensure swift, equitable compensation for mesothelioma victims and others with asbestos-induced diseases. The new legislation, which is reported to significantly improve the bill passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee last summer, is the result of hundreds of hours of multi-party negotiations. Those talks have settled many administrative issues and reportedly deleted “poison pill” amendments, leaving a well-capitalized trust fund which ensures that all asbestos victims – now and in years to come – will get fair benefits, quickly paid to compensate for real injury.

“The legislative language we have seen is encouraging,” added Vagley, “but proper execution of a trust fund is extremely complex. Several moving pieces have yet to settle into place, and some vital improvements are needed. To that end, we urge senators to continue bipartisan efforts to finalize a reform plan that ends the asbestos litigation crisis with both fairness and equity. People who are truly sick from asbestos and the workers at companies caught in the ever-expanding litigation web all are waiting and hoping that Congress finishes their job this year.”

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