The Senate Judiciary Committee has voted bill S.852 out of committee. By a 13-5 vote, the legislation that would establish a 30-year, $140 billion asbestos victimsÃ compensation trust fund was cleared for action by the full Senate where a number of Senators have already stated they will insist on significant changes before voting for it.
In addition, The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) has already mounted a vocal campaign against the passage of S.852. ADAOÃs president, Alan Reinstein, charges that: "This legislation does not adequately protect the rights of present and future victims and we hope the Senate does the right thing by voting Ã«noÃ on this corporate bailout bill."
In essence, the bill would eliminate asbestos lawsuits and create a 30-year fund financed by companies facing litigation and their insurers. Victims would lose their right to sue for compensation and would be required to go to the fund for relief. Senate opponents of the plan see potential problems with the fundÃs solvency and with the allocation of expenses between the participating companies and insurers.
ADAO, however, sees more serious problems wit the proposed fund including:
Outdated and incorrect medical criteria with respect to the symptoms, diagnosis, and severity of asbestos related diseases.
Inordinate compensation delays and improper eligibility standards.
Inadequate funding for research, education, prevention, and outreach.
Possible insolvency long before all present and future victims can access it.
While the group is not opposed to the idea of a trust fund, it would much rather see one that is fundamentally fair, adequately funded, free of bureaucratic delays, and guaranteed to be around long enough to ensure all victims would be properly compensated. ADAO also advocates giving the victims the right to choose between compensation from the fund or a trial.