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Asbestos Bail Out Bill Is Back (And Ugly As Ever)

To:Mesothelioma and Asbestos Cancer Patients/Families/Friends
Fr:Roger G. Worthington
Dt:April 11, 2005
Re:Asbestos Bail Out Bill is Back (and ugly as ever)

The rights of asbestos victims are again on the chopping block. The asbestos companies and their corporate sponsors in the U.S. Senate want to sacrifice your right to seek redress in the civil court system so that the companies who poisoned millions of workers, schoolchildren and US Navy veterans can safely put profit predictability over moral accountability.

The bill is expected to be introduced tomorrow in the U.S. Senate. We have learned that several Democratic Senators may co-sponsor the bill, including Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Tom Carper (Del.), Herb Kohl (Wis.) and Dianne Feinstein (Ca.).

We can stop the sell-out if we take a few minutes to call, write and fax our U.S. Senators. In the next few days, I will be providing you with form letters to fax, e-mail and regular mail to your senators. I understand the "new" bill will not be significantly different from last year's bill, which had been voted out of committee but never reached a floor vote. When we've analyzed the new bill, we will provide you with a summary, as well as a suggest form letter, which you and your family can use.

For now, here are a few points to consider, based on my review of the last known version of the bail out bill.

  • The trust fund inadequately compensates victims. Awards will be capped at arbitrarily chosen numbers that do not account for age, life expectancy, lost wages, dependents, medical bills and special hardships. The numbers will not reflect average jury or settlement values on a regional basis.
  • The trust fund will rely on contributions from business and insurance, who will likely litigate what their "fair share" is for years to come. As with the Superfund toxic waste clean up effort, corporate America would rather delay than pay.
  • The Bail Out Bill will create another massive federal bureaucracy. It will take years for the agency to "get up to speed." Meanwhile, the federal government will confiscate all unpaid settlements and dismiss all pending lawsuits, even if your case is in trial. You will forever lose your right to seek redress in the civil court system for your loss, even if the trust fund runs out of money.
  • The new federal agency will be beholden to its corporate sponsors. Think it's tough getting any service from your government now? Wait until you try to collect compensation for asbestos cancer. Agencies by nature put their own survival as their top priority. If bureaucrats are faced with deciding to pay or not to pay, they will likely side with industry, as the more money in the trust fund, the better chance the agency will meet it's own payroll. Administrative expedience will trump civil justice .
  • At least 10,000 people in the United States will die each year of asbestos disease over the next 20 years. At least 2,500 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. Neither industry nor the National Institute of Health has seriously invested in medical research for early detection, prevention, treatment or a cure. The bill largely ignores the pressing need for more research dollars and essentially writes off mesothelioma patients as beyond help. Two years ago MARF proposed a $140 million per year research and treatment program. The bill would dole out a mere $10 million a year for 5 years. This is a drop in the bucket and a slap in the face.
  • The EPA has determined that as many as 35 million homes, schools and businesses are currently contaminated with asbestos-containing Zonolite insulation. Millions of children are still being exposed to asbestos in schools. The Bill does not ban the use of continued use of all forms of asbestos.
  • The proposed figure of $140 billion to fund the asbestos trust was not arrived at through consideration of how many people may develop asbestos disease, or how much compensation they may deserve, but by asking industry and its insurers how much they would be willing to pay to eliminate their liability forever. The settlement values are fixed and cannot be appealed. Claimants cannot ?opt out? of the trust fund to pursue their constitutional rights to a jury trial.
  • Windfall Savings for Hurting/Killing on A Massive Scale. Halliburton would save $3.7 billion by going into the Fund, rather than meeting its obligation under the bankruptcy trust. Honeywell would save $1.5 billion. W.R Grace would save $1.7 billion. In all, asbestos corporations with pending settlements would a receive $12.6 billion windfall by no longer having to compensate victims the amount they have already agreed to pay.
  • The asbestos bail out bill excuses and reduces corporate liability, opening the door for more egregious corporate behavior and is not in the best interest of the average working American.
  • The asbestos bail out bill will result in delays and reduces and denies compensation to asbestos victims and their families.
  • The medical criteria requirements established in the bill, which were drafted by corporate sponsors and their lobbyists, do not comport with medical science. They are geared towards limiting the number of eligible claimants and shirking their duty to compensate.
  • The asbestos bail out bill ignores victims who became sick while doing home repairs and remodeling as well as their own automotive maintenance. Thus the American family who practiced self-reliance and unwittingly exposed themselves to asbestos will be denied access to compensation if they become sick.
  • Nothing in the bill will create any obligation of funding from the United States Government, there will be no cause of action against the United States or obligate the United States to pay any award of part of an award if the amounts in the Fund are inadequate.
  • It is foreseeable that the Fund will never be properly funded, yet the law would prevent claimants from returning to the civil court system to seek compensation. The bill rewards big corporations who commit mass atrocities by letting them off the hook. This is bad for our country, undermines our civil liberties, and puts companies who obey the law at an economic disadvantage next to the anything-goes scofflaws.

Even several large insurance companies agree the bill is unfair and contains numerous problems that are "unfixable." We agree that if the Federal Government really wants to fix a problem, it should fund medical research to fix the public health crisis and pass a legitimate medical criteria bill that preserves the right of the seriously ill, such as mesothelioma and lung cancer patients, to expedite their claims against the guilty parties.

Several rabid senators have proposed eliminating claims by those who are stricken with colon cancer, laryngeal and stomach cancers, despite the overwhelming weight of medical authority that such cancers can be caused by heavy asbestos exposure.

Here are the members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

Biden, Joseph - (D - DE)
201 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
tel: (202) 224-5042 fax: (202) 224-0139

Brownback, Sam - (R - KS)
303 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
tel: (202) 224-6521 fax: (202) 228-1265
Web Form:

Carper, Thomas - (D - DE)
513 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
tel: (202) 224-2441 fax: (202) 228-2190
Web Form:

Coburn, Tom - (R - OK)
172 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
tel: (202) 224-5754 fax: (202) 224-6008
Web Form:

Cornyn, John - (R - TX)
517 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
tel: (202) 224-2934 fax: (202) 228-2856
Web Form:

DeWine, Mike - (R - OH)
140 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
tel: (202) 224-2315 fax: 202) 224-6519
Web Form:

Durbin, Richard - (D - IL)
332 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
tel: (202) 224-2152 fax: (202) 228-0400
Web Form:

Feingold, Russell - (D - WI)
506 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
tel: (202) 224-5323 fax: (202) 224-2725

Feinstein, Dianne - (D - CA)
331 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
tel: (202) 224-3841 fax: (202) 228-3954
Web Form:

Graham, Lindsey - (R - SC)
290 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
tel: (202) 224-5972 fax: (202) 224-1189
Web Form:

Grassley, Chuck - (R - IA)
135 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
tel: (202) 224-3744 fax: (202) 224-6020
Web Form:

Hatch, Orrin - (R - UT)
104 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-5251 fax: (202) 224-6331
Web Form:

Kennedy, Edward - (D - MA)
317 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
tel: (202) 224-4543 fax: (202) 224-2417
Web Form:

Kohl, Herb - (D - WI)
330 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
tel: (202) 224-5653 fax: (202) 224-9787
Web Form:

Kyl, Jon - (R - AZ)
730 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
tel: (202) 224-4521 fax: (202) 224-2207
Web Form:

Leahy, Patrick - (D - VT)
433 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
tel: (202) 224-4242 fax: (202) 224-3479

Schumer, Charles - (D - NY)
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
tel: (202) 224-6542 fax: (202) 228-3027
Web Form:

Sessions, Jeff - (R - AL)
335 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
tel: (202) 224-4124 fax: (202) 224-3149
Web Form:

Specter, Arlen - (R - PA)
711 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
tel: (202) 224-4254 fax: (202) 228-1229

Please be prepared to ask your Senator to vote against the Asbestos Bail Out Bill.