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Asbestos Defendants Rejoice: "We Will Party In The Streets" If Hatch Asbestos Defendant Windfall Passes


Here is an ad that was posted in the Washington, D.C. Roll Call newspaper, paid for by lawyers who specialize in asbestos cancer claims, including RGW, PC. Special thanks to my good friend and colleague Charles Siegel, a brilliant lawyer with Waters & Kraus.

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Last year we, a small group of lawyers who represent asbestos cancer and seriously ill asbestosis claimants, supported legislation that would impose medical criteria for the filing of asbestos personal injury claims. The legislation we supported would have imposed minimal medical criteria as a condition to filing an asbestos-related lawsuit, but would otherwise have preserved the tort system for truly injured claimants, and for those who have been exposed to asbestos but are not yet sick.

Unfortunately, however, the bill [S.1125] that is now under active consideration is not a criteria measure, but the "trust fund" bill introduced by Senator Hatch. As you know, this bill would take away all asbestos victims' rights to a jury trial; would cap all damages for mesothelioma claims at $750,000; would cap all damages for smoking lung cancer victims at $50,000 and non-smoking lung cancer victims at $400,000; would require that even these amounts be paid out over three years; and would reduce even these amounts by any payments received from most collateral sources including any insurance payments. There is no provision for attorneys' fees under the trust fund.

Aside from the substance of these provisions, what is most galling is that our clients were used as pawns by industry interests to generate support for asbestos reform in general. Pretending to give a damn about our clients and to be seeking a system in which the truly injured are fully compensated, industry interests used our support as a means to get traction for asbestos legislation generally. Then, when Senator Hatch embraced the "trust fund" approach, our clients' rights suddenly didn't matter. The industry interests who used our clients to gain credibility now support a bill that destroys their claims.