Trial lawyers, invigorated and outfitted with billions of dollars in fees from the
tobacco settlements, have the potential to alter national policy through class-action
lawsuits on a wide range of issues. With key industry organizations' support, legislation
pending before Congress can push these trial lawyers back.
Nowhere are the trial lawyers' abuses of the tort system more apparent than in asbestos
litigation. With 200,000 cases pending nationwide and 30,000 to 50,000 additional
cases filed every year, asbestos trial lawyers are trolling for new defendants with,
at best, tangential involvement in asbestos. A majority of the former asbestos manufacturing
industry is already in bankruptcy or reorganization. Estimates indicate that between
50 percent and 80 percent of claims filed are made by non-sick individuals.
The Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act (H.R. 1283/S. 758) is uniquely packaged
as a targeted tort reform measure and has received strong bipartisan support. For
example, the Senate's bill has Ashcroft, Hatch, Sessions, Grassley, and Smith teaming
up with Torricelli, Dodd, Lieberman and Schumer as original cosponsors. The cosponsors
of the House bill include DeLay, Armey, Watts, Hyde, Moran, Pascrell, Stenholm,
Since this legislation is good for victims, the asbestos trial lawyers cannot attack
its merits. They are, therefore, resorting to tactics of intimidation in an attempt
to stop the legislation in its tracks. The legislation would ensure that settlement
dollars go toward the true victims of asbestos rather than the non-sick and a handful
of asbestos trial attorneys. Moreover, it will help curtail the incredible power
that the asbestos trial lawyers have over companies in the tort system.
The Coalition for Asbestos Resolution is mounting an aggressive and professional
campaign to move the legislation through the process. H.R. 1283 and S. 758 are gaining
momentum with the strong support of a number of industry organizations such as the
Chamber of Commerce, National Roofing Contractors Association, the Automotive Parts
and Accessories Association and the Citizens Against Government Waste.
The asbestos trial lawyers, however, are committed to defeating this legislation
at all costs. In order to counter their attacks and show that this needed tort reform
initiative has the momentum to navigate the legislative process, we need your support.
This bill could be a prototype for future product liability issues.