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Supreme Court Affirms Rights Of Asbestos Victims To Seek Remedies In Court, Overturns Sham Fibreboard Class Action.


The Supreme Court on June 24, 1999 as expected threw out a $1.5 billion asbestos agreement between Fibreboard and a cadre of plaintiffs lawyers.

The decision was good news for asbestos victims who can now seek redress in the court system for their injuries. It was bad news for big corporations who injure scores of consumers and worker and later seek to cap their liability.

The justices ruled that a federal judge in Texas wrongly approved a $1.5 billion settlement among Dallas-based Fibreboard, its insurers and about 186,000 people with asbestos-related health claims. Fibreboard is a subsidiary of Owens Corning Fiberglass.

But don't rejoice just yet. The Court also stressed throughout the opinions the need for "national legislation." Not coincidentally, a bill is pending before Congress now -- the so-called "Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act" -- that is far worse than the class action just declared void.

Already we are seeing television commercials touting the proposed "national legislation." But do not be misled. The Hyde Bill now pending would again deprive victims of their right to use the court system, it would again bail out the asbestos companies, it would severely limit the damages available, it would create strict eligibility criteria that would automatically invalidate 80% of all claimants, it would shift the cost of asbestos disease from the manufacturers to the employers and taxpayers, and IT IS NOT EVEN SUPPORTED BY FIBREBOARD, OWENS CORNING FIBERGLASS, W. R. GRACE and OWENS ILLINOIS -- the last three of whom are defendants in thousands of cases now pending.