PCI Disappointed as Senate Blocks Consideration of Asbestos Bill

The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America expressed disappointment that Senate Democrats blocked consideration of a bill (S. 2290) (see IJ Website April 20) to reform the asbestos litigation system, calling it a “defeat for victims of asbestos-related diseases, American business, and the nation’s economy.”

The PCI noted that the “Senate today by a vote of 50 to 47 defeated a procedural motion to close debate and move to consideration of the bill. The motion required 60 votes for cloture.”

“We are very disappointed that a minority of Senators blocked a good faith effort to implement asbestos litigation reform,” stated Carl Parks, PCI Sr. VP for federal government affairs. “Without these reforms, people who are truly sick will continue to be under-compensated. The only winners were the attorneys who continue to profit from the proliferation of lawsuits.”

The PCI said it had “viewed the bill as a significant step forward in the effort to enact a meaningful and reasonable solution to the asbestos crisis. Among its key components, the bill would have established a trust fund to be financed by insurers and businesses to cover asbestos-related claims over the 27-year life span of the program. S. 2290 defined and capped industry contributions both on an annual and an aggregate basis. Parks also noted that the bill would have “honored the agreement made with legislative leaders to limit insurer contributions to $46 billion.”

According to PCI, the bill would have provided fair, equitable and certain compensation for victims of asbestos-related diseases and would have broken the cycle of endless litigation that denies claims to the truly sick and drains the resources of American businesses and the insurers that protect them.

“S. 2290 was not perfect,” Parks continued. “But it’s deficiencies pale in comparison to the benefits it would have delivered to asbestos victims, to their employers, and to the economy. We are disappointed that the trial bar put their personal interest above the interests of the truly ill and the nation in their efforts to kill this legislation. PCI will continue to work with Senator Frist and other congressional leaders to find an effective and affordable solution to the nation’s asbestos problems.”