Recent media attention regarding fraudulent personal injury claims involving asbestos, along with particularly restrictive legislation recently passed by Congress, has caused many legitimately injured victims to second guess the prospects of their lawful and justifiable claims. This series of informational articles is intended to illuminate the issue of asbestos injury fraud and explore the impact that recent legislative action is making—on asbestos litigation now and in the years to come. In ‘Part II,’ we look at recently passed legislation that has the potential to change the settlement process for thousands of mesothelioma victims.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a controversial bill, intended to increase mesothelioma lawsuit transparency and eliminate fraudulent claims, on Nov. 13—marking the first legislative move towards significantly increased government oversight in asbestos injury legislation. The Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act was then passed to the Senate, where it is currently sitting in the hands of the Committee of the Judiciary.
The bill, also known as HR 982, passed by a 221-199 margin. As is routine in today’s heated political climate, it’s very close divide followed neatly along partisan lines with House majority republicans in wide support of federal oversight regarding asbestos legal interests overall. Only five House democrats voted for the bill, exemplifying the party’s general position of skepticism about claims of rampant fraud and abuse in mesothelioma lawsuits.
What FACT essentially seeks to do is greatly increase the amount of disclosure of sensitive information—including financial data and family info—required of asbestos victims filing claims, while neglecting to place any such requirements for transparency on the asbestos companies on the other side. The legislation is believed to be a product of intensive lobbying on the parts of major players of the asbestos industry, as well as groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—an organization of political conservatives known for supporting bills designed to reduce corporate regulation and liability.
Critics of the FACT Act protest that its so-called transparency requirements actually put asbestos cancer victims at risk for identity theft and other acts of victimization and will ultimately serve to discourage victims from filing a mesothelioma lawsuit against the corporations who negligently caused them harm. Additionally, critics point out the lack of evidence to support justifications the bill claims—namely a blatant absence of proof showing that fraud is a real problem amongst asbestos injury claims.
Indeed, victims’ advocacy groups— like the Asbestos Cancer Victims Rights Campaign (ACVRC)—echo those same concerns, which seem to represent a legitimate grievance, which opponents of the bill hope will be taken well into consideration by the U.S. Senate—who now holds H982’s fate in its collective hands.
As of the current date, no hearing or other action regarding the bill has been added to the Senate agenda, leaving the future of thousands of victims who hold the right to a mesothelioma lawsuit up in the air for an undeterminable frame of time.