Victims' Organizations & Physicians Opposition Points
ADAO Stakeholder meeting and Press Conference Ð Monday, 4/25 produced a joint statement on objections to the bill, which was reported Monday afternoon at a well-attended press conference in Washington.
Senate Bill 852 was written without the voice of the victims. At the same time, it protects the asbestos industry and cuts its liability at every turnÉwe believe the victimsÕ organizations gathered here today Ð and the thousands of victims we represent across the country Ð would support an asbestos resolution bill --- if it was fair and equitable. There are solutions to this problem. But, they are not represented in this bill. The asbestos companies are not victims. Congress should only pass legislation that properly protects and supports those who are.
Unjust Elimination of Constitutional Rights Ð Moses Boyd
1. Despite the fact that the asbestos public health crisis was created by companies that willfully hid the hazard for decades, this bill imposes on their victims the most punitive action that Congress can take toward American citizens - elimination of their constitutional right to a jury trial and, thereby, their right to protect themselves, setting a precedent of a dissolution of The Bill of Rights. Elimination of jury trials ensures unfairness in the allocation of compensation among victims, because it treats victims as interchangeable, despite great differences in age and life situations. This bill should provide an alternative to jury trial, at the option of the victim.
Probable Trust Fund Insolvency Ð Doug Larkin
2. The bill provides no guarantee of equitable and speedy compensation to victims. Indeed, its wholly inadequate funding ensures that compensation to victims will be inadequate to meet their needs.
Unwarranted Ineligibility and Exclusion of Claims Ð Jonathan Bennett, Rachel Lidov & Dr. Arthur Frank
3. Ineligibility and exclusions of victimsÕ claims.
Faulty Medical Criteria Ð Dr. Arthur Frank
4. The legislation includes very restrictive medical criteria standards that, according to physicians' groups, are faulty and without a sound scientific and medical basis. These extreme standards are clearly designed to minimize or eliminate payments to victims. The American Thoracic Society (ATS) Guidelines for the Evaluation and Initial Treatment of Non-Malignant Asbestos Diseases must be included in the medical criteria.
No-Fault Fallacies - Michael Bowker (statement read)
5. The burdensome nature of the claim process is designed to discourage and exclude victims. The bill provides no guarantee of legal assistance. The process is called "no-fault," but it subtly places fault upon the victim, in terms of burdensome requirements for proof. The caps of 5% on attorneysÕ fees will realistically preclude any victim from obtaining legal counsel. A more realistic allowance for attorneys is the only way to guarantee competent representation for victims.
Insufficient Upfront Funding Ð Ellen Patton
6. The $43 billion startup funding is grossly insufficient and will result in almost immediate depletion of the fund upon startup, thereby further delaying compensation for victims. Victims forced to return to the courts might not receive full compensation for 5 - 8 years, exceeding the expected remaining lifetime of many victims. This figure needs to be approximately $100 billion to improve likelihood of maintaining solvency early and over the life of the fund.
Unfair Transition from Existing Filed Cases Ð Paul Zygielbaum
7. The bill unfairly, and without justification, provides no transition to accommodate cases that are close to adjudication but will not meet the strict schedule in the bill, thereby unfairly penalizing victims who have already spent several years in the courts in pursuit of their claims. Claims already filed in courts must be allowed to proceed. If the intent of the bill is to protect victims who have no other recourse for compensation, then victims who have other recourse should be allowed to opt out of participation to pursue their cases through jury trial. The lack of an opt-out clause is fundamentally unfair to victims.
Research, Prevention, Education, Outreach Severely Underfunded Ð Linda Reinstein
8. International data supports the United States estimations and predictions for future victims are all too low. All treatment centers should included patients suffering from all forms of malignant and nonmalignant asbestos-related diseases. Doctors recommend immediate funding for stand-alone programs for research, prevention, education and outreach.
Neglect of Financial Factors Critical to Victims - Herman Hamilton
9. Financial aspects of awards are poorly defined in this bill. Their neglect reflects a preponderance of attention to the needs of the defendants and their insurers in the drafting of this bill.
Administrative Uncertainty Precludes Confidence in Fund Ð Jim Fite
10. This bill provides no measure of security for victims, because throughout the life of the fund, the process is riddled with opportunities for the Administrator, at his/her sole discretion, to make alterations that can be devastating to victims. Even the Advisory Committee definition is devoid of victim representation. The administrative structure and processes must be revamped to provide a secure basis for planning by victims, not just defendants and insurers.
Lack of Provision for Enforcement of Ban on Asbestos Ð Brent Knoych
Gayla Benefield was unable to attend the Stakeholder meeting, but presented an opposition statement on behalf of the Asbestos Victim's Relief Organization.