A number of bills that claim to help asbestos victims and their families have recently been introduced in state legislatures across the country, as well as in the U.S. Senate. Yet while lawmakers suggest these bills will prevent fraud, their true goal is to protect companies that have endangered their workers through asbestos exposure, which can lead to the deadly cancer mesothelioma. These bills may have titles that sound consumer and worker-friendly, but in reality, they are an escape hatch for corporate liability.
Starting at the Top
One of the most prominent bills is the “PROTECT Asbestos Victims Act” (S.2564) (PAVA), which has been introduced to the U.S. Senate by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Tom Tillis (R-NC). While the stated purpose of this bill is to decrease instances of fraud in asbestos claims, it would only stop asbestos victims from receiving fair compensation.
This bill is opposed by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), which argues that if passed into law, the act would create many more hurdles for plaintiffs seeking a settlement.
In recent years, other bills have been introduced in Congress with a similar goal. The FAIR Act and FACT Act both aimed to postpone payments to asbestos victims, meaning their trials would drag on for months and years. Increasing this red tape sharply reduces the number of settlements paid out to victims and their families, because it takes a great deal of stamina to continue a court battle for that long – time that asbestos victims simply do not have.
The fact that over 25 asbestos “protection” bills have been introduced nationwide speaks to the power of corporate lobbying, and how far corporations will go to protect profits while leaving victims with mounting medical bills. Meanwhile, as legislators haggle over the provisions of these bills, the need for an outright asbestos ban is forgotten. Over the past 20 years, around 300,000 Americans have died from diseases related to asbestos. Their family members are among those fighting these bills across the country.
The Workers’ War of Words
Asbestos victims and their families have been using the power of the Internet to speak out against the barrage of bills, adding their names to a letter that expresses their dismay and disgust. The letter is addressed to state legislators across the country, and emphasizes that it has been signed by a broad coalition of citizens, both Democrat and Republican.
Some of the people who have signed the letter have worked as firefighters or served in the military, and others are spouses or children of these individuals. All have been affected by asbestos exposure that led to mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases. The letter emphasizes that these “protection” bills will only help corporations escape liability, even though they knowingly hid the fact asbestos was dangerous, and continued to expose their workers to this deadly carcinogen.
Additionally, the letter notes that 30 percent of people who have mesothelioma are veterans, yet veterans compose only 8 percent of the U.S. population. Those who have served our country, and countless others who have been exposed to asbestos on the job, should not have to spend the time and money battling their way through the courts. Their lives have already been affected by a cancer diagnosis and a painful treatment process, yet these bills seek to do them further injustice in spite of their heroism and sacrifice made for the betterment of our nation.
The List Goes On…
The following states have introduced legislation that is similar to PAVA:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
At a time when we should be pushing for an asbestos ban across the nation, it is tragic that we must instead fight for victims’ rights to justice and compensation. But in the age of the Internet, it is simpler than ever to add our voices to the outcry. We must let our elected officials know that we will not be fooled by anyone who sticks a smiley face on a bill and calls it “protection.”