Asbestos Legislation - Examples of Legal and Corporate Tampering

Asbestos legislation is one way that the government and regulating agencies have tried to protect the rights of individuals who suffer from asbestos related diseases. The painful truth, however, is that legislation is slow in being enacted and when it is, it doesn’t have the teeth to do nearly enough.

The history of asbestos legislation is one of frustration, delays and changes in response to constant tampering by various lobbying and asbestos industry groups. Mesothelioma legislation faces the same kind of problems. The end result is that several decades after the damaging, sometimes lethal affect of asbestos has been proven, patients with asbestosis and mesothelioma don’t have nearly enough legislation to rely on for help.

Asbestos Legislation Suffers From Legal and Corporate Tampering

Since 1999, there have been a few attempts to update or improve legislation, but all of them have been defeated in Congress after they’ve been re-written so much they are virtually unrecognizable by the time they are voted on. Some examples include:

Asbestos Legislation

  • 1999 – The Supreme Court ordered Congress to develop asbestos legislation that would move cases involving diseases caused by asbestos to move through the courts faster. The intention of this order was to help patients get resolution more quickly, hopefully before they passed away from their illness. Instead the proposed legislation caused a flurry of protests from the industry giants, who responded with increasingly strict guidelines for “proving” mesothelioma or asbestosis.
  • Books on Asbestos Litigation & Legislation

  • The "Asbestos Compensation Act" was developed in 2000. This was legislation that proposed a separate Office of Asbestos Compensation within the Department of Justice. Years of rewrites, adjustments and squabbling ensued, and it didn’t go to a vote for almost four more years.
  • In 2003, the Asbestos Compensation Act was passed by the Senate but defeated in the final round of votes. This sent a message that asbestos companies didn’t want the involvement of the Department of Justice and preferred the slow, drawn-out process of individual lawsuits because they are less likely to have to pay for as many cases. If the legislation had passed, the Asbestos Compensation Act would have enabled many more people to get compensation.
  • In 2004, asbestos legislation was proposed which would have put a cap on all awards for any asbestos related cases. Thankfully, this bill wasn’t made law; too many people realized that the formula proposed in it strictly limited the amount of compensation and had strict proof guidelines that would burden those who were ill or dying. The biggest stumbling block, however, was that this asbestos mesothelioma legislation proposed a Trust Fund for payments that would be contributed to by the asbestos companies themselves and didn’t have any protection for patients if the Trust became insolvent. It essentially meant that no one could sue because they had to “take it or leave it” in terms of compensation and that if the Trust was bankrupt, the asbestos companies were forever after safe from litigation.
  • In 2006 the earlier 2004 legislation was presented as the "Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act". It again proposed set limits with strict guidelines, a standardized litmus test for all cases and a Trust Fund for all those suffering from asbestosis or mesothelioma. Ironically, legislators called it the FAIR Act, although it heavily favored asbestos defendants because each company would only be contributing a small percentage of what they internally admitted they would anticipate paying out if they were sued by patients and their families.

To date, no asbestos legislation has been successfully passed that would guarantee compensation to all sufferers. The inability to pass such laws has been primarily the result of the efforts to tamper with the individual bills in order to protect the asbestos corporations themselves.

Unfortunately, with such a powerful lobby protecting them, the asbestos industry will also not have to worry about any stronger asbestos or mesothelioma legislation any time soon. Although a ban altogether on asbestos has been mentioned by the EPA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, anything even remotely resembling a bill to that effect has been stymied by special interest groups. With new proposals going before Congress nearly every year, it is imperative that you talk to an attorney who is well-versed in asbestos legislation who can protect your rights.

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