Asbestos Litigation; How the FAIR Bill will affect you?

The emergence of newly proposed bills that would limit asbestos company liability and significantly reduce payouts, has lead to growing concern over the seeming bias of lawmakers towards certain interest groups.

Prolonged asbestos exposure can lead to dangerous health conditions including mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer. Every year 2500 to 3000 new cases are diagnosed every year with thousands more outside the United States as other countries have been slow to adopt asbestos bans (though asbestos is not completely outlawed in the United States and exists in many products manufactured today).

Treatment only adds a few months to the life of the victim as the cancer is often in its latter end stages by the time a diagnosis is made.

The large number of asbestos related lawsuits in recent times has lead to an overwhelming backlog of unresolved cases in our legal system. If these cases are not settled on time because most of them will drag over years, the victims might have died by the time the judgments are given.

Furthermore numerous companies have gone out of business because they could no longer operate under the financial strains of numerous multi-million dollar judgments. This in turn limits the ability of the affected victims to claim their compensations.

If this system continues, the expected case filings over the next decade will create a standstill for legal action.

One of the major problems with asbestos cases is the fact that a number of these lawsuits are speculative. A person who was exposed but has yet to get a conclusive diagnosis of any asbestos related illness may file in court.

The Proposed Solution

The Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act of 2005 came to existence shortly after March of 2004 after Pres. Bush proposed limits on asbestos related "junk" lawsuits at a speech in Detroit .

Originally introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch, the FAIR Act would establish a $140 billion trust fund to replace litigation as a means to compensate victims of asbestos and limit liability.

The maximum award would be $750,000 but with an estimated 500,000 possible claims. The fund would quickly deteriorate and could not pay victims. ($375,000,000,000,000 would be needed according to estimates if each received the maximum)

The bill was initially defeated last year but has stuck around the Senate Judiciary Committee which last week approved new amendments to the bill including support for those exposed during 9/11 and hurricane Katrina.

However the bill includes an exposure length minimum of 5 years which effectively eliminates both groups.

On April 26, 2005 supporters and opposers testified before Congress

A solution needs to be reached soon but that solution needs to be equitable to all sides involved. The bill is currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee but the new version could be voted on when the new session begins.

Bello kamorudeen.


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