Friable Thoughts

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Asbestos Reform Group Looks to Revive Medical-Criteria Bills

For now the trust fund and one wonders if medical criteria will get much of a chance. Senator Leahy opposes medical criteria because he believes many that have asbestos-related illnesses do not have viable remedies in the current tort system. Those groups are the para-occupational sufferers, employees of bankrupt entities and veterans. Now, whether those groups have a viable remedy is a matter of opinion, but they do have remedies.

Para-occupational (or secondary) exposure victims can sue all the same manufacturers, premises defendants, suppliers and contractors as ordinary run-of-the-mill plaintiffs. All they need to show is a family member who was exposed and that they had contact with the family member. A slightly more difficult burden of proof but not insurmountable.

Employees of bankrupt entities can file for worker's compensation claims, which reside with the compensation insurer or, if the insurer is insolvent, the state compensation fund. Additionally, employees of bankrupt companies can sue solvent defendants that supplied asbestos-containing component parts or raw fiber. The only employees of bankrupt entities really at a loss are employees of asbestos mines or raw fiber suppliers.

As for veterans, it is true they can't sue the federal government. But they can apply for veterans' benefits. Additionally, they can sue the manufacturers of asbestos-containing equipment and materials, of which there are still many viable defendants.

Validly injured plaintiffs have plenty of remedies in the current tort system. Problem is the system provides "remedies" to a larger number of questionable plaintiffs as well. Sorting the good and bad claims takes quite a bit of time and resources.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Senators seek to revive asbestos bill

It appears Senator Frist was bluffing when he said that the trust fund bill was dead for 2006 if yesterday's vote went south. If Senator Inouye was the 60th vote that would have/could have/should have overcome the budget point of order, perhaps we'll get to revisit the issue after the next Congressional recess. Even so, many of those that voted to waive the budget point of order may vote against the trust fund. Isn't politics fun?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Senate rejects trust fund for asbestos victims

The trust fund goes down on a budget point of order today. Ironically, a Republican brought the point of order so Senator Reid didn't have to pimp out for the trial lawyers. Now, let's see if Senator Conryn is serious about submitting a medical criteria bill and if the other senators will consider it.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Asbestos Bill Stays Alive as New Questions Arise

Last week the Senate voted down a medical criteria alternative to the trust fund. This alternative would've addressed the biggest abuse in the current litigation but most of the senators seen enamored with the trust fund or don't want any reform at all.

Specter's stated reason that employees of bankrupt companies would have no one to sue under the alternative sounds strange because 1) employees can claim worker's compensation against their employers even if the employer is bankrupt and 2) they can sue those who supplied asbestos-containing components (like raw fiber) to their employers.

Now the question is whether the senators that voted for the medical criteria will scuttle the trust fund bill or support it.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Reid Removes Objection to Asbestos Bill

So, after all the sound and fury, Senator Reid blinks. Now the interesting question is why. Does he have the votes to defeat the bill straight up? Does he have enough to filibuster the bill after it gets to the floor? If not, all that money from the plaintiff's bar was really well spent.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Fireworks erupt over asbestos-fund bill

Tomorrow the Senate votes to send the trust fund bill to the floor or not. One wonders if the proponents have enough votes as Senator Reid is carrying water for the plaintiff's bar. Not helping matters is opposition from some of the defense interests. Does this mean we'll resolve asbestos litigation tomorrow? Probably not but for some folks, they'll be breathing a sigh of relief one way or another.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

US asbestos bill backers set news conference

Tomorrow Senators Specter and Leahy will try to rally the troops. Since the president didn't mention reform in last night's state of the union address, someone has to carry the torch. Of course, more debate is just what they need to pass the bill. After the last couple of years of debates, more debate will do the trick.