Friable Thoughts

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Other Asbestos Bill

While Senator Specter's FAIR Act was getting plenty of ink last week, Congressman Chris Cannon quietly introduced the Asbestos Compensation Fairness Act of 2005. Whereas Specter's bill is a trust fund, Cannon's bill is a medical criteria bill. Most folks figured the real action is in the Senate since a legilative filibuster could stop anything the House would try. However, what the conventional wisdom has not taken into account is how the plaintiff's bar would react to a medical criteria bill.

After all, plaintiff's lawyers initially proposed medical criteria three years ago. Whether the Cannon bill addressed their concerns or goes too far or not far enough may determine whether the reform forces can split the trial lawyers and the labor unions.

Medical criteria at least targets the main problem with asbestos litigation. Whether a medical system can efficiently weed out the bad cases while allowing the meritorious cases is another issue altogether, let alone whether they can pass a bill if the trust fund bill sucks all the oxygen out of any reform.

I suspect the Cannon medical criteria bill will ride along quietly in the House while Specter's bill gets much more attention. Then, after Specter's bill dies a painful death, Cannon's bill may take all the reform watchers by surprise.


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