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Susan Vento, Wife of Deceased Congressman and Mesothelioma Victim Bruce Vento, Expresses Her Strong Opposition to the So-Called "FACT Act"

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 here.

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 refutation of the WSJ’s “investigative reporting” regarding the FACT Act.

In a letter 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.