A Republican-backed bill that lawmakers claim would reduce fraud in asbestos lawsuits is moving through the House.
The Judiciary Committee approved the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2015, introduced by Rep. Blake FarentholdBlake FarentholdWhy Republicans took aim at an ethics watchdog Report on warrantless surveillance shows Congress must update privacy laws A national law needed to protect online freedom of speech MORE (R-Texas), on Thursday by at 19-9 vote.
Under the bankruptcy code since 1994, bankrupt manufacturers and their insurers have been able to create bankruptcy trusts to compensate workers and their family members who were injured by the company’s manufacturing of asbestos.
With roughly 60 asbestos trust funds and nearly $40 billion in assets, lawmakers said opportunistic individuals are able to seek multiple payouts by filing conflicting claims with numerous trusts.
To protect these finite trusts from paying out money for fraudulent or inflated claims, the bill would require trusts to file quarterly reports on their public bankruptcy dockets that include information on demands for payments and the basis for payments made.
“Every dollar taken through double-dipping or unscrupulous legal practices is a dollar less for those victims who face mesothelioma and other asbestos related illnesses,” Farenthold said in a statement. “The FACT Act will shine sunlight into the opaque asbestos trust system to fight this fraud and abuse.”
But Asbestos Nation, the Environmental Working Group Action Fund campaign to educate and mobilize the public on the dangers of asbestos, said this legislation creates legal roadblocks that are designed to delay victims from being compensated.
“There are more than 12,000 U.S. deaths each year from asbestos-related disease, and this bill does nothing to address that,” Linda Reinstein, CEO of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, said in a release.” Instead, it creates new hurdles for victims seeking justice, benefiting the same corporations responsible for causing this national health crisis.”
This story was updated at 5:38 p.m. on May 15.