Friable Thoughts

Friday, July 29, 2005

Specter backs down on the asbestos trust fund subpoenas

So, it appears Specter made an empty threat because now he's decided he's not going to issue subpoenas. Of course, like any politician, he could change his mind.

He could still threaten to pull the bill entirely if the recalcitrant companies are the ones in favor of the trust fund. However, one suspects that the recalcitrant companies actually oppose the trust fund. Or otherwise don't think it's going to pass if they're afraid that disclosing the information Specter wants will lead to more lawsuits. I suspect it's more of the former and hope for the latter.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Subpoena? You don't need no stinkin' subpoena!

Senator Specter is threatening to subpoena various defendant corporations to determine their contributions to a proposed asbestos trust fund. Now, why the author of the bill would need to subpoena that information seems strange. Why he would agree to sponsor the bill without that information is beyond me. Isn't how much each defendant contributes to the fund an essential element of the bill? Otherwise, without that information, there's a pretty good chance that the fund won't be fully, you know, funded.

Why the senator is threatening a subpoena also seems odd. Why not just threaten to withdraw the bill? If the corporations really want the fund, they'll pony up the info. Of course, if they are opposed to the fund, you'll never get that information out of them and it would be better simply to set their contribution and call it a tax or fine or something. Maybe it would be easier to confirm a Justice to the Supreme Court?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Blue State Rumble?

Seems Pennsylvania is contemplating medical criteria. Now, it could be business-friendly legislators carrying the water against a liberal political establishment. But, if lawyers that represent cancer plaintiffs only get on board, who knows how the bill might fare.

The insurers are hoping to hit California and Michigan next year. If they can get a criteria bill in the heavily Democratic California Senate and Assembly, I'd be very impressed. I would suggest they do what they can to make some of the plaintiff's lawyers happy and isolate the ones that represent the "unimpaired" and explain to the labor unions that having contractors going bankrupt as a result of this litigation isn't good for current members or retired members on pensions.

Then again, perhaps this is how some retired union members get there "lump sum" retirement.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

This Time, It's Criminal

Could the US Attorney's office in New York be investigating plaintiff's firms for coaching their witnesses in asbestos cases? GAF's lawyers claim to have passed on some info to federal prosecutors there involving some the the nation's biggest plaintiff's firms. Could some of the biggest names in the business be doing the frog march in orange jumpsuits?

Of course, if this is true, it really hurts the plaintiff's lawyers and their clients that play by the rules, let alone the defendant companies and their employees and shareholders. It's kind of sad if is true. You'd think that if you had a legitimate case, you wouldn't need to suborn perjury, but heck, I'm an idealist.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Breaking Down Asbestos Fibers

Perhaps all those potential defendants in Japan caught a break today when a professor in the Land of the Rising Sun announced he had developed a method to break down asbestos into harmless dust by using chlorofluorocarbons. Of course, since asbestos-related diseases take decades to develop, they're probably screwed already though this development might make abatement less costly.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Natural Exposure

Living in the El Dorado hills of California might be living dangerously. A UC Davis study concludes that exposure to natural-ocurring asbestos may cause cancer. Since asbestos is in the state rock of California and asbestos-containing rock is present in Northern California, I suspect asbestos lawyers may start asking if plaintiffs ever lived in there areas and what they did there. I suspect it also means that we'll be seeing more asbestos cases from folks that had no workplace exposure.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Asbestos Hits Japan

It seems the US isn't the only place that has an asbestos problem. Now Japan is starting to see quite a few asbestos-related illnesses popping up. Of course, if asbestos was used in there up until last year, then it looks like the Japanese have just run into the tip of the iceberg.

14 die after handling asbestos in Japan

Friday, July 08, 2005

Masking Liability

You don't need to have an asbestos-containing product to be a defendant in asbestos litigation. Just ask 3M, the maker of the paper dust mask. Now, there is a bill to make dust mask manufacturers immune from product liability suits if the mask was approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) or, before 1972, by the U.S. Bureau of Mines.

The bill would also preempt claims based on exposure to silica, coal dust and any other airborn toxin, though I would guess asbestos is the prime mover here. Always good to multi-task. Who would've thought that something as simple as a paper mask to get a big company into so much trouble?

Immunity for makers of dust masks?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Forum Shopping for Asbestos Cases?

A couple of adverse verdicts in Madison County have sent plaintiff's firms looking elsewhere. But who would've thought Delaware? It is a blue state and quite a few big corporations are there but how many plaintiffs have any connection to the state? Well, not everyone worked for DuPont.

And, I guess a law firm there will have to co-counsel with the out-of-state firms until they can get someone admitted to the state. Having a firm with Joe Biden's son looks smart, especially if Senator Joe's long-shot bid for the presidency pans out.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Devil in the Details

It looks like the asbestos bill is getting some action again though Justice O'Connor's retirement may take up some of the bandwidth of our senators this summer.

What is surprising is that Senator Specter does not know one of the most important details of the bill he is sponsoring. Seems he does not know how much each of the various parties is to contribute the the trust fund. While I imagine there would be a large number of contributors, isn't there a tenative list somewhere and of all people, shouldn't he have that list?

Why should a bill sponsor have to subpoena information for details of his own bill? Why would anyone sponsor a bill without knowing who pays? And, if he doesn't know this, do any of the senators, who would vote on this bill, know?

Ah, it's enough to bolster one's faith in our elected officials.

US lawmaker backs away from asbestos subpoena threat