On the House agenda this week, along with the utterly predictable Keep Your Health Plan Act, is another bill that might be called the Screw the Little Guy Act.
I wrote about this bill last May, and via a blog called The Pop Tort I see that it could be voted on this week. This is H.R.982, called the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2013. Here’s some background from my earlier post —
As asbestos manufacturers faced lawsuits from sick and dying workers, many went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy to protect their assets. Some of these manufacturers were required to set up asbestos personal injury trusts, which were responsible for compensating present and future claimants. The FACT Act of 2013 would require these trusts to disclose much personal information about the claimants, a requirement that seems to have little purpose except to dissuade people from filing claims. (According to the General Accounting Office, personal information about individual claimants may be obtained today with the permission of the claimants or in response to a legitimate subpoena, but otherwise the privacy of claimants is respected.)
Or, as the Pop Tort blogger explained, the bill does two things:
1) it requires asbestos trusts to disclose on a public web site private, confidential information about every asbestos claimant and their families, including their names, addresses, where they work, how much they make, some medical information, how much they received in compensation and the last four digits of their social security numbers; and 2) it allows any defendant in any asbestos lawsuit the right to demand any information about any asbestos victim from any asbestos trust at any time for any reason.
The Republican bill, known as the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act (FACT) of 2013, would allow asbestos companies to demand information from the trusts for virtually any reason, forcing the trusts to devote limited resources to responding to fishing expeditions that will slow the process of paying claims.
The bill would also increase the burden on claimants to supply information. But it puts virtually no burdens on asbestos companies, like disclosing the settlements they have reached with plaintiffs or requiring them to reveal where their products were used and when, so that workers know which companies or trusts might be liable for their injuries.
So, yeah, the only purpose of this bill is to intimidate sick people, or their survivors, from filing claims, and if they do file claims to be sure they get as little as possible as late as possible.
I know it’s an article of faith among a lot of these
bozos Republican legislators that people file claims who aren’t even sick. But if that were the case, it ought to be fairly easy to stipulate that claimants provide a diagnosis of mesothelioma or other asbestos-related disease from a qualified medical provider. Oh, wait; the law already on the books does that. Never mind.
The Asbestos Cancer Victims’ Rights Campaign has an online petition to stop the FACT Act.