Was the Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act of 1998 fair?
The Fairness is Asbestos Compensation Act of 1998, also known as H.R. 3905, was never passed, but the bill's 11 points survived and remain a part of the ongoing debate about how asbestos companies should compensate the people they exposed.
The Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act of 1998, introduced by the late Republican House Representative Henry Hyde (R-Illinois), had two main ideas: one, to impose stricter rules against asbestos exposure in the workplace, and two, to control asbestos litigation—which would limit the legal options and compensation possibilities of all who have been exposed to asbestos.
Though the Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act of 1998 was never passed, the issue of “fairness in asbestos compensation” has the potential to affect millions of Americans who were exposed to asbestos. Weitz & Luxenberg would like to provide this important information about H.R. 3905 to all who are interested, especially those who would be affected by such legislation.
The Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act of 1998: Rep. Hyde's 11 findings
Mr. Hyde introduced H.R. 3905 as “a bill [t]o establish legal standards and procedures for the fair, prompt, inexpensive, and efficient resolution of personal injury claims arising out of asbestos exposure, and for other purposes.” (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-105hr3905ih/pdf/BILLS-105hr3905ih.pdf)
This is a statement anyone could agree with: “the fair, prompt, inexpensive, and efficient resolution of personal injury claims” is a goal shared by both the prosecution and defense in asbestos litigation. But the bill goes on to lay out Representative Hyde's eleven findings on the state of asbestos compensation, which many people do not agree with:
Asbestos personal injury litigation is unfair and inefficient....
Asbestos litigation has already led to the bankruptcy of more than 15 companies....
The ... volume of asbestos cases is straining State and Federal courts...
Asbestos litigation has resulted in arbitrary verdicts, with individuals receiving widely varying recoveries...
...The legal, medical, and scientific issues have been repeatedly tried and retried in courts for many years.
Currently, statutes of limitation can force claimants to bring premature lawsuits in order to avoid losing their claim. ...
Litigation has not been able to provide compensation to claimants swiftly. ...
...Less than 50% of the total cost of asbestos litigation actually goes to compensate claimants. ...
In many courts, the vast majority of pending asbestos claims are filed by individuals who suffer no present asbestos-related impairment. ...
Punitive damages also divert the resources of defendants from compensating impaired claimants. ...
Mass consolidations only serve to magnify the irrationality of a litigation system that awards massive amounts to the unimpaired while threatening the ability of seriously ill people to obtain compensation in the future.“
The Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act of 1998 (S. 2546), sister to H.R. 3905
On October 5, 1998, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced the Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act of 1998, S. 2546, 105th Cong. (1998), which was “similar to the House bill, H.R. 3905, 105th Cong. (1998), introduced earlier this year.”
Some of the more controversial proposal's in Senator Hatch's bill (which, like H.R. 3905, was not passed) were: people exposed to asbestos could not seek compensation for “emotional distress, increased risk of cancer or other disease, and certain medical monitoring costs.” (FindLaw)
The bill proposed “prohibiting class actions, consolidations, or any other aggregation of claims, without the consent of all defendants. ...Under the proposed system... the federal courts would have exclusive appellate jurisdiction over all cases.” (FindLaw)
In addition to limiting what qualified as a good enough reason to seek compensation and outlawing class action suits, The Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act of 1998 in its Senate incarnation would have all asbestos exposure cases subject to federal, not state, courts.
The Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act of 1998 did not pass. You still have a wide range of legal options.
The Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act of 1998, in both its House and Senate versions, sought to put the fate of asbestos exposure victims seeking compensation in the hands of the federal government.
While there are some who would argue on behalf of the Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act of 1998's proposals, Weitz & Luxenberg cannot. Our firm does not believe in a “one-size-fits-all” approach to law. We believe that the specific industries, histories, and characters of each state influence what that state's citizens and government want and need in asbestos litigation.
We recognize that each case is ultimately about the person who was exposed to asbestos and is now suffering. We do not support any bills that would limit your options. If you suffer from an asbestos-related disease and would like to find about more about those options, call Weitz & Luxenberg today, or fill out a form for a free legal consultation.