West Virginia Record

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Meet the real victims of asbestos disease

By The West Virginia Record | Jan 19, 2006

It's time for America to meet the real victims of asbestos disease.

Asbestos continues to kill 10,000 men, women and children every year
just in the United States. For more than 70 years, asbestos exposure
has been documented to cause cancers and respiratory diseases, yet
corporations knowingly exposed workers and consumers to deadly
asbestos. The only safe person in the world today is an unborn child.
For too long, this issue has been described as litigation and a
business crisis. It's essential we recognize asbestos has cause the
largest manmade disaster in history.

For a minute, envision yourself breathing through a pinched straw,
every minute, and every day – your diseased lungs no longer function

Decades have been spent on crafting trust fund legislation that
reduces corporate liability and responsibility at the victims'
expense. The unfairness of these actions are glaring. We believe
that S. 852, in its current form, has not only failed to correct for
the past flaws, but is worse than prior bills considered in the Senate.

During the past two years, more than 40 bargaining meetings were held
with the four "stakeholders", manufacturers, labor, insurers and trial lawyers. Victims' Organizations were excluded from these meetings, yet we are the crucial stakeholders irreversibly affected by trust fund legislation.

Supporters claim it will be a no-fault system–they are wrong. The
burden of proof is shifted entirely to sick and dying victims who
don't have the time, resources or strength to provide the trust fund
Administrator with the medical and occupational records that normally
require a team of investigators. Instead, victims just won't qualify
because of the newly imposed restrictive legal and medical standards.
This bureaucratic maze is unworkable and bad public policy.

The expected constitutional challenges, as cited during the Judiciary
Hearings, will guarantee inordinate victims' compensation delays.
Meanwhile, innocent asbestos victims will be left in legal limbo for
years. No help from the fund and unable to take their case back to

The lack of transparency is an enormous problem for businesses and
victims. We have no idea which companies are contributing or how much
money they will put into the fund. The corporate tiers have
conveniently not been disclosed. Americans deserve corporate
accountability in exchange for their civil right.

This bill is also a powerful example of why politicians shouldn't try
to practice medicine. Under the medical criteria as it is now
written, thousands of people sick with asbestos diseases will be
excluded from seeking compensation for one erroneous reason or
another. In fact, this new version completely eliminates an estimated
30,000 lung cancer victims from the program and they will be prevented from taking their case to court. Not the best public policy or even remotely fair.

The $140 billion fund is grossly under-funded. The Bates White study
demonstrates that actual entitlements of up to $695 billion would
bankrupt the fund within 3 years. Victims are left to die with the
uncertainty of recovery and no legal recourse. It's not about the
dollars, it's about the deaths.

S. 852 inadequately addresses funding for education, prevention,
outreach and research. Asbestos knows no boundaries. Every American
is in danger. For now, prevention is our only cure. More than 30
million homes, schools and office building are still contaminated with deadly asbestos and asbestos has not been banned. Recently,
asbestos was just found in a North Carolina school that was undergoing renovation, even though the school passed regular asbestos tests for 15 years. We can not let history repeat itself; there is no safe level of asbestos exposure.

For many sick and dying victims, their last wish is to be heard and to face those responsible for their sickness. It is a basic American
right to seek justice through the court system. S. 852 is woefully
unfair to present and future victims and the fatal flaws make this
bill unsalvageable.

Linda Reinstein, Executive Director & Cofounder
1525 Aviation Boulevard Suite 318
Redondo Beach, California 90278
Phone (310) 437-3886

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