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.

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