The currently pending FACT Act may hold the potential to drastically shake the procedural standards and norms of mesothelioma litigation in the very near future, leaving thousands of victims and legal professionals who specialize in representing them in a state of uncertainty and worry.
FACT, short for Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency and not to be confused with the acronym-sharing but completely unrelated Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, is a bill that details new requirements placed on the part of asbestos victims’ trusts. Specifically, it would require that these trusts release quarterly reports describing the “receipt and disposition of claims.” Those reports, which would be available on the public docket and accessible by anyone, would list personal details about victims without regard to privacy concerns.
Opponents of the bill allege that such forced action would effectively cripple mesothelioma litigation as a whole by discouraging victims from filing claims, in fear of having personal details of their lives openly divulged. The anti-FACT set also vehemently deny allegations of rampant fraud amongst those who file a mesothelioma lawsuit, citing a total lack of evidence showing such purported misconduct and denying any need for further transparency.
Opponents also have raised concerns about the possibility of asbestos victims subsequently becoming victims of identity theft, as a result of their sensitive data being released to the public.
Additionally, opponents have expressed concern about the bill’s potential to cause delays in compensation disbursement for asbestos-injured claimants. This is because much of the time spent processing claim pay-outswould have to instead be dedicated to the time-intensive task of compiling and generating quarterly reports, as required by FACT.
Some of FACTs most notable opponents include the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization and the Asbestos Cancer Victim Rights Campaign. Susan Vento, widow of former Rep. Bruce Vento who died of asbestos cancer almost fifteen years ago in 2000, has actively lobbied against the bill as well.
Those who support the bill insist that fraudulent claims do present a significant problem in mesothelioma litigation and stand behind the newly proposed requirements. Supporters say that the intended purpose of the payout reports that would be released by trusts is to prevent claimants from committing fraud by filing against multiple businesses for the same injury in order to receive more multiple settlement awards, often called “double-dipping.” In preventing such misconduct, supporters argue that they can effectively protect funds that are intended to pay settlements for future victims.
The bill was introduced to the House in March and sponsored by Texas-based Republican Blake Farenthold. Individual congressional stances on FACT have fallen almost evenly along party lines, with most Republican representatives voting for and most Democratic representatives voting against the bill.
Currently, it is sitting with the Senate’s Committee on the Judiciary, after being passed by the House in mid-November of last year—essentially leaving the future of mesothelioma litigation completely up in the air for an undeterminable period of time.