The Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act, (FAIR) which came before the Senate earlier this year, has been tabled for now yet the question still exists, who would stand to benefit should the Act resurface? Many corporations will benefit if the Act passes, while many victims may be left without compensation.
Introduced by Senators Arlen Specter and Patrick Leahy, the FAIR Act brings asbestos to the forefront. Under the FAIR Act, a trust fund would be established limiting the amount of money victims can obtain for their lethal exposure to asbestos. Somewhere in the neighborhood of $140 billion would be set aside for the injured parties. An administrator would be appointed and responsible for processing claims for compensation for asbestos-related injuries and managing the fund. Estimates are that the amount falls short by as much as $100 billion.
The waiting period for these compensation awards could also take years, and stringent criteria could affect the claims of many people, excluding them from filing a claim altogether.
Passage of the FAIR Act would also signal the end of litigation in the courts. Injured parties would no longer have their day in court, nor would they have a jury of their peers, but rather a government-appointed administrator would decide their lot.
What does that mean for the worker who was exposed to asbestos and is now suffering from asbestosis or mesothelioma? Those who can prove five years of on-the-job exposure are eligible. Those affected due to exposure from such things as doing their own home improvements or washing contaminated clothing and the like would be ineligible.
More than 300,000 Americans have died from asbestos-related diseases and estimates are that some 400,000 people will be inflicted with an asbestos-related disease in the future. Latency periods for these diseases can sometimes take up to thirty years or longer. The FAIR trust fund? It expires in twenty-seven years. Concerned about the FAIR Act? Contact your state representatives and ask them to vote NO.