Legislation & Litigation

Asbestos Defendants Wield Too Much Power on Capitol Hill

Written By:
Jul. 13, 2012
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Written By: Karen Marshall,
July 13, 2012

Earlier this week, mesothelioma advocates gathered on Capitol Hill to educate lawmakers about mesothelioma. These advocates are in town for the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation’s annual symposium.

They hope to make lawmakers aware of the need for mesothelioma research funding. Their efforts are needed because challenges to the economy have put federal programs that fund medical research at risk of budget cuts.

Although the Meso Foundation advocates are in Washington, D.C., to encourage medical research funding, their presence can indirectly encourage protection of asbestos personal injury compensation.

As we’ve explained in recent blog posts, the asbestos industry is well-represented on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers need to see that asbestos victims also have a powerful lobbying presence.

The Power of the Asbestos Defense Lobby

Anyone who questions whether asbestos defendants have major political influence need only look at recent developments in Congress and state asbestos legislation. Although there’s no real evidence to suggest fraud among asbestos bankruptcy trusts, asbestos industry lobbyists have managed to convince lawmakers to hold two hearings on the issue of asbestos trust transparency.

Earlier this year, two related bills were introduced in Congress. One of those bills, the proposed Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act (H.R. 4369), recently passed a committee vote and may be considered by the entire House of Representatives.

It turns out that even a single asbestos defendant can have a powerful voice with lawmakers. Take Crown Holdings, for example. The bottle-top maker has so much political pull that it has influenced asbestos liability legislation in fifteen states.

The company assumed $700 million in asbestos liability after buying a smaller company for $7 million in 1963. That’s why Crown’s aggressive lobbying efforts are aimed at limiting the liability of so-called “successor corporations.”

So far, Crown and its lobbyist have convinced lawmakers to pass legislative protections in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Regardless of whether you believe companies like Crown deserve protection from asbestos claims, that’s a lot of influence for one company.

Increasing the Power of Asbestos Victims

What if a single asbestos victim could lobby as successfully as Crown Holdings? Imagine the possibilities. Ensuring compensation for future asbestos claims would be a national priority.

Claims could be processed faster. Mesothelioma research funding would thrive. What if lawmakers were as concerned about innocent victims of asbestos exposure as they are about corporate profits?

Does the health and safety of veterans, workers and others exposed to asbestos really need to take a back seat to job creation and business growth?

So that’s why it’s so important to have the Meso Foundation advocates in town. They help remind public officials that asbestos exposure isn’t merely a business viability problem. It’s a public health problem.

This year is a major election year. So that makes it a good time to:

  • Contact your federal, state and local government representatives;
  • Find out where they stand on asbestos-related issues; and
  • Urge them to support asbestos victims and mesothelioma research.
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