Susan Vento lost her husband in October of 2000, just eight months after
he had been diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. Susan’s
husband was Democratic Congressman
Bruce Vento of Minnesota who served as a United States Representative for 24 years
and devoted his work in the government to environmental and homeless causes.
When he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, he began championing asbestos
victims’ rights and was committed to raising awareness for mesothelioma
and the urgent need for research funding.
Recently, Susan and many others whose lives have been turned upside down
by asbestos disease were eager to offer testimony to lawmakers in opposition
to House Resolution 982, the “Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency
(FACT) Act”. They were told they would get the opportunity to do
so, but instead Susan and the others were offered only a closed-door meeting
with congressional staffers and were told they could offer written comments
away from the press. This, of course, is a far cry from the public open
hearing they were promised.
Undeterred, and intent to have her opinions and unique perspective on the
legislation heard by lawmakers and the public, Susan authored an article
that was published in the June 3, edition of
Roll Call. The complete article can be seen
This isn’t the first time Susan has stood up for asbestos victim’s
rights. In 2003 Susan took an active and vocal stance against legislation
that attempted to create an industry-bankrolled trust fund to compensate
sick workers and their families and would have taken away individual asbestos
victims’ right to trial.
FACT Act sponsor Blake Farenthold repeatedly claims the purpose of the
bill is to “avoid waste, fraud and abuse within the trust claim
system in order to secure compensation for the ‘real’ victims
of asbestos disease and not deplete the funds of the trusts for future
victims.” Farenthold refers often to the Wall Street Journal’s
”investigative reporting” as if it had presented actual evidence
of fraud, but as we discussed
here, the so-called evidence falls far short.
Reading the transcript of the May 21, 2013 proceedings is angering. It
is blatantly obvious and painfully clear that those in support of the
bill are not defending the victims of asbestos disease, but are the hand
puppets of corporate interests. It is important to remember that most
of the “bankrupt asbestos companies” are still in business
and, in many cases, very successful. The trusts were created under bankruptcy
laws which allow companies to avoid liability for their dangerous products
in exchange for partial payment to victims so that they can continue to
operate as viable and profitable companies, as noted by consumer advocate
Joan Claybrook in her
of the WSJ’s “investigative reporting” regarding the FACT Act.
to congress opposing HR 982, the Center for Justice and Democracy and the
Alliance for Justice ask some very good questions. Wouldn’t a bill
that is designed to increase transparency require equal disclosure of
all settlement amounts by defendants as well? Shouldn’t this bill
require asbestos defendants to disclose information about the history
of exposures caused by their asbestos products?
Asbestos litigation is already an arduously painstaking process, the so-called
transparency being sought by corporate-funded representatives is just
the latest ploy to limit payouts and further prevent justice to suffering
individuals. The legislation is one-sided, unfair and unnecessary.