Posted on February 15, 2017
The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) has been an outspoken opponent of the FACT and FAIR Acts, which are reintroduced yearly, since 2004. Why? Because the FACT Act is designed to make it even more difficult for asbestos victims, including our ADAO community, to receive our “day in court” and the compensation we deserve. Asbestos-caused diseases claim 15,000 American lives each year, yet imports continue. That’s a fact. But that number does not include the devastated families and children left behind with no means of financial support when someone dies a preventable asbestos-caused death.
Last week, Representative Farenthold (R-TX-27) introduced H.R.906, the 2017 FACT Act. On Wednesday, the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee pass the bill when now goes to the House Floor for a vote. If passed there, the bill will move on to the Senate.
Don’t be fooled, the FACT Act wasn’t written for us – it is a special interest bill. It forces victims to reveal personal information, work history, family information and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers in order to get medical bills paid at all.
Here’s what HR 906 will do:
- Requires the asbestos trusts to publicize victims’ personal information, thus forcing victims to choose between receiving compensation and keeping their personal information private.
- Forces the public disclosure of private victim information including “each demand the trust received from a claimant, including the name and exposure history of the claimant, and the basis for any payment from the trust made to such claimant.”
- Grants asbestos corporations the right to demand any information from any trust at any time about any person, creating an endless loop of information demands designed to delay trust claim processing, deplete trust assets, and, when combined with ALEC state and “transparency” legislation, ultimately deny victims dying from asbestos their day in court.
- Within the effective date, contains language making the bill retroactive, requiring the trusts report and reprocess individual claims information for every trust claim filed since the trusts’ inception (the Johns Manville trust, for example, has processed more than 951,000 claims since it was established in 1988).
What asbestos defendants really want (and can’t currently obtain) is to make the asbestos trust claims process so onerous and so invasive for victims that the payments will be delayed, lowered, or victims will be deterred from filing claims entirely. By creating a public database of information and grinding trust claims processing to a halt, the FACT Act would directly impact asbestos victims and their families, decrease compensation for victims, and give defendants unfettered access to information in order to pay their victims less.
ADAO submitted a letter of opposition into the public record for this bill, and during his comments at the markup meeting, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI-1) named ADAO as an opposing organization and read a portion of our comments to the committee.
This is an egregious affront to our civil rights as asbestos victims, and we must not remain silent. I implore you to share this blog and discuss the issue with your friends and family so they understand the risk posed by this legislation. If you haven’t shared your story of how asbestos has impacted your life, please consider sharing through our “Share Your Story” platform — the more stories we collect, the stronger our collective voice. As I often remind Congress, “For each lost lost from an asbestos-caused disease, a shattered family is left behind.”
ADAO will be sure to keep you updated when there are actionable steps we can take as a community to fight back.
Together, change is possible.