Friable Thoughts

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Cutting Losses, Going for the Kill

What's interesting about the asbestos reform negotiations in Congress is seeing the players change sides. First, the UAW has come out in support of the as-yet-to-be-proposed bill breaking the monolithic opposition from Big Labor last year. Before that, with some of the insurers breaking ranks and opposing the basic concept of the bill, one wonders if it's a net wash or a gain for either side.

It's probably safe to say that both sides see changes in the states that affect the likely outcome of doing nothing. Medical criteria bills are under consideration in Texas, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee and may come up in Mississippi and South Carolina. If that happens and the bills do what they're supposed to (a big "if" at that), a good chunk of the disputed asbestosis cases are gone or moving to other states.

For the insurers, that qualifies quite nicely in the "good things" category and for the labor unions and some of the plaintiff's bar, the "bad things" category. So, the dynamics of doing nothing have changed for the better for the insurance companies and their insureds and for the worse for some of the plaintiffs' interests. It just might well be that a trust fund would be more expensive than doing nothing, which is probably why some of the players are changing sides. And, it wouldn't it be ironic if they were right?


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