Congress Reintroduces Bill that Delays Compensation for Asbestos Victims, Puts Privacy at Risk

On January 26, 2015 two members of the U.S. House of Representatives reintroduced a controversial piece of legislation that delays compensation for asbestos victims and puts victims' privacy at risk. The so-called "Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency (FACT) Act" (H.R. 526), is supported only by the asbestos industry, their insurers, and the corporate front groups working on their behalf.

“With nearly 10,000 Americans suffocating every year from horrific asbestos diseases like mesothelioma, Congress should be focused on ensuring justice for the victims and protecting the public health and safety," stated American Association for Justice CEO Linda Lipsen. "Instead, asbestos corporations and the U.S Chamber of Commerce have orchestrated a calculated campaign to delay and deny justice for dying asbestos victims. The reintroduction of the FACT Act is a reminder of the lengths asbestos corporations will go to evade being held accountable. It is offensive that the same corporations that profited from hiding the dangers of asbestos would now turn to Congress to force the public release of asbestos victims' personal information, delaying compensation and putting their privacy at risk.”

The American Association for Justice is not alone in their opposition to the bill. Other organizations including Public Citizen, Alliance for Justice, the Environmental Working Group Action Fund, and the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, all voiced their opposition. 

When this bill was debated in the 113th Congress, asbestos victims and those responsible for overseeing the trusts that compensate the victims opposed the bill and raised serious concerns about the impact this legislation will have on those poisoned by asbestos.  They wrote directly to Congress to highlight how the legislation is a massive intrusion on the privacy of asbestos victims and their families that will lead to higher costs for asbestos trusts and compensation delays for asbestos victims:

In a May 20, 2013 letter to the U.S. House of Representatives, asbestos victims stated:

“The FACT Act forces the asbestos trust funds to reveal on a public database personally-identifiable information about asbestos victims and their families. This would include private work history, asbestos exposure information, the last four digits of their social security numbers, and even the personal information of children who were exposed at an early age. This is offensive. The information on this public registry could be used to deny employment, credit, and health, life, and disability insurance. We are also concerned that victims would be more vulnerable to identity thieves, con men, and other types of predators.”

In a November 8, 2013 letter to the U.S. House of Representatives, asbestos trusts stated:

“The bill does not, as its proponents claim, protect either the trusts or their beneficiaries. Rather, the bill merely changes the rules in the tort system so as to impose increased costs on the trusts' claimants. The litigation advantage that this bill provides to solvent asbestos defendants is its only practical purpose. … the trusts believe that the bill will unduly and unnecessarily increase the trusts' administrative burdens and will inevitably lead to higher non-reimbursable costs and delays in the processing of claims and payment to holders of asbestos claims. Such a bill does not protect the trusts or their beneficiaries; it burdens them.”

On Wednesday February 4, 2015, there will be a hearing on the FACT Act in U.S. House of Representatives in the Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial, and Antitrust Law. The hearing will take place at 1PM ET.