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Posted by Andrew S. Wainwright on Feb 19, 2015 11:30:24 AM

 

800px-courtequaljusticeOn January 26, 2015, The Furthering Asbestos Transparency (FACT) Act was introduced into the 114th session of the House of Representatives as H.R. 526. This legislation would hurt asbestos victims and their families by requiring public disclosure of all kinds of personal, private information. We must make our voices heard. Contact your Representative and ask him or her to vote against The FACT Act. Here’s the House’s tool for finding your Congressional Representative. Tell them to do the right thing and reject this unjust bill.

Asbestos corporations are once again trying to make it harder and more dangerous for asbestos victims to get the compensation they deserve from asbestos trusts and the court system. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce (which, despite the name, is not a government agency) and the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), have proposed legislation that would require private confidential information about asbestos victims be made public. The real reason for doing this is to make asbestos victims and their loved ones afraid and fearful of exercising their constitutional rights.

The so-called FACT Act (Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act) would require bankruptcy trusts to publish quarterly reports including detailed personally identifiable information about victims and their families. Private information would be published on the internet for all to see:  the last 4 digits of Social Security numbers, information about personal finances, information about minor children who were exposed at an early age, and private information about work history. This type of information would make asbestos victims vulnerable to hacking, identity theft, scams, and other predators. Further, publishing this private data could result in the denial of credit, employment, housing, and life, disability, and health insurance.

No private information about asbestos defendants would be made public by this supposed “transparency” act. Only victims of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases would lose their rights to privacy in settlement negotiations. It is completely one-sided and unfair. No other kind of litigation requires these barbaric steps and no other kind of plaintiff is subjected to this treatment.

The FACT Act would also increase the costs to asbestos bankruptcy trusts, which would have to pay to compile the information and create public websites to display it. These costs serve only to take money away from the limited amount of money available to victims. Asbestos victims are never made whole after an asbestos company has declared bankruptcy, as the amount of money is always limited. This bill would serve to further reduce payments to mesothelioma and other asbestos victims. It would not apply to any other type of trust created by the bankruptcy courts.

Veterans will be harmed by this bill. Many veterans were exposed to asbestos while serving their country aboard ships. Trucks, tanks and airplanes were also insulated with deadly asbestos. Veterans often went on to take civilian jobs similar to the jobs they performed in the military, and were exposed to asbestos in those positions. It is estimated that almost one-third of persons diagnosed with mesothelioma are veterans of the U.S. military. The FACT Act would hurt the very people who were there for our country when we needed them most.

This bill is not about transparency. It is about delaying and denying payments to the very people whose lives and health were destroyed by the asbestos companies. It is a cruel irony that companies whose failure to transparently reveal the truth of what they knew about the hazards of asbestos exposure now seek to destroy the very privacy of their victims, and reduce their compensation even further. It is a shameless attempt to revictimize those who have already suffered so very much.

Again, asbestos victims and their families must make their voices heard. Contact your Representative and ask him or her to vote against The FACT Act, House Resolution 526. Here’s the House’s tool for finding your Congressional Representative. Tell them to do the right thing and reject this cruel bill.