Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Revamped Asbestos Reform Bill Introduced in Senate

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Revamped Asbestos Reform Bill Introduced in Senate

Article excerpt

Sen. Arlen Specter, R.-Pa., and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., have revived a controversial asbestos reform bill that died in the Senate earlier this year.

The revamped "Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act of 2006" (S. 3274, also referred to as the FAIR Act of 2006) includes a number of changes proposed by senators during previous debates over the bill. However, the main thrust of the bill is the same as the one that was nixed on the Senate floor on Feb. 14: It proposes to take all asbestos claims out of the court system by creating a no-fault, $140 billion asbestos trust fund that would be financed by private industry.

Under the bill, asbestos victims would submit their claims to the fund--which would be administered by the Department of Labor--and would have to meet certain medical criteria designed to weed out fraudulent claims.

When Specter introduced the bill on May 26, he urged his colleagues to pass the bill "for the sake of thousands of victims dying from asbestos-related disease who are unable to secure compensation in today's broken tort system."

Specter said that the bill responds to a number of concerns raised by senators and other stakeholders in that the bill calls for a speedier recovery of compensation for the sickest asbestos claimants; stronger medical screening criteria; limitations on so-called "dormant claims"; exempting small businesses from paying into the fund; and "a litany of safeguards to ensure that defendant companies do not encounter insolvencies or inequities because of their contributions. …

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