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Asbestos Litigation Tort Reform

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, and Dooley.

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.

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