[mgj-discuss] Bush Calls for Change in Handling Asbestos Lawsuits
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Sat Jan 8 20:02:26 PST 2005
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Subject: [nycanarchists] Fwd:Bush Calls for Change in Handling Asbestos
My father died in 2000 of mesotheilioma, a cancer caused by asbestos. He
was an insulation worker for 34 years. We filed a lawsuit and won a
settlement. I decided to put most of the money back into radical political
causes (I am broke now). So one of the companies involved in our lawsuit has
been bought by Halliburton and now the Bush administration is working to save
them. For the past four years, this specific company has fought against paying
the money that they originally agreed to pay the families of victims that died
of diseases that resulted from asbestos. As a result of legal battles like
this one, our family only received a portion of the agreed upon settlement, on
grounds that these companies are bankrupt. This seems silly sense Dowl
Chemical and Halliburton are making billions and that the same bankrupt
companies are subsidiaries of these rich multi-national corporations. The
following NY Times article fails to mention that exposure to asbestos leads to
300-400% increase of the likelihood of developing gastro-intestinal or
respiratory cancers. Of course in 99, the WTO fought against France banning
asbestos, stating that banning this harmful material would be a "trade
restriction." (This effort was defeated!)
If we were to sell a deadly substance, for example cocaine, we
to jail. If a large trans-national corporation sells a hazardous material and
then covers up the effects of the product, they pay a fine to the family of the
victim. If the company goes bankrupt, the government bails them out. In this
case, Bush is fighting to make the companies the victims of relentless lawsuits
and to keep these lawsuits from happening. Of course, a cocaine buyer knows
that cocaine is a deadly substance. Workers exposed to asbestos had no idea
the serious effects of exposure to asbestos. Things like this make me realize
that the problem is not just the asbestos industry. The problem is systemic.
Love and Rage,
[questions mediablitz at riseup.net ]
Bush Calls for Change in Handling Asbestos Lawsuits
By STEPHEN LABATON
Published: January 8, 2005
LINTON TOWNSHIP, Mich., Jan. 8 - President Bush concluded a week of campaigning
to overhaul the nation's civil justice system on Friday by urging swift
Congressional approval of legislation that would sharply limit the steadily
growing number of lawsuits by workers and others who claim to have been injured
Mr. Bush, who was accompanied in this northern suburb of Detroit by two
executives, the daughter of an asbestos victim and a law professor sharply
critical of the current system, said that the wave of asbestos-illness claims
had "bankrupted a lot of companies" and that the "truly sick are denied their
day in court" because many claims involve people with no major medical
"This is a national problem," he said, urging Congress to adopt a measure that
would allow the sickest victims to receive money more quickly and limit the
"The system isn't fair," he said. "It's not fair to those who have been harmed.
It's not fair to those who are trying to employ people. It's just not fair."
More than 1,100 Michigan residents have died from asbestos diseases in the last
20 years, according to government data compiled by the Environmental Working
Group, a research organization.
Mr. Bush has long argued for major changes in the tort system, many advanced by
business interests, but his effort on Friday was his first major push to
overhaul the process for handling asbestos claims. Critics have said that one
reason the White House may have been less visible on the issue in the past is
that until recently a main beneficiary of such a measure could have been
Halliburton, the large oil field services and construction company once headed
by Vice President Dick Cheney.
Halliburton has sought to limit its legal liabilities from asbestos claims
against Dresser Industries, a company that made many products that contained
asbestos and that Halliburton, under Mr. Cheney, acquired in 1998. On Monday
Halliburton announced that two of its units had emerged from bankruptcy
protection after formalizing a $4.7 billion settlement of asbestos claims that
could involve more than 400,000 people.
Halliburton's experience is hardly unique.
Asbestos has been widely used as an insulation and construction material, and
exposure to it in the workplace - in construction sites and shipyards, for
example - may not manifest itself in harmful ways until decades later.
Illnesses it may cause range from the relatively minor to the fatal.
Experts say that more than 100,000 asbestos claims were filed in 2003
that federal and state courts already laboring under a deluge of such cases
could face significant new numbers as more people show symptoms of asbestos
A 2002 study by the RAND Corporation found that more than 600,000 people had
filed claims for asbestos-related compensation, costing businesses more than
$54 billion. It predicted that 500,000 to 2.4 million more claims could be
filed in the years ahead, costing businesses as much as $210 billion. The study
also found that 65 percent of compensation over the last decade was paid to
people with noncancerous conditions.
Previous efforts to find a legislative solution, including one last year, have
foundered, and there remain significant political obstacles this year even
though Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who heads the
Judiciary Committee, plans to circulate a new proposal soon and the Senate
majority leader, Bill Frist of Tennessee, has hopes to get a measure to the
Mr. Specter has announced a hearing on the issue on Tuesday. He has been
on Edward R. Becker, a senior federal appeals judge from Philadelphia, to
broker a deal between the various parties that would create a large fund
sponsored by companies and their insurers to supplant the courts.
Last year, such a deal proved elusive.
The fight over an asbestos measure pits one of the most important
of the Republicans - big and small businesses and their insurers - against two
traditional bases of the Democrats: the trial lawyers and the labor unions. The
lawyers and the unions have maintained that last year's proposals would not
provide enough money for victims, would unfairly shield many companies from
liability and would adversely affect plaintiffs who are close to completing
their cases in the courts.
The critics of the administration say the White House is approaching revisions
in asbestos and tort law just the way they say it has done with Social
Security: exaggerating the nature of the problems as well as catering to
Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, denounced the president's plan as
inadequate and said the administration should instead focus on prohibiting the
production and use of asbestos.
"I am deeply troubled that the president spoke of ending liability for
that have used asbestos without addressing the need to ban this deadly
substance," Senator Murray said. "The current asbestos liability crisis is not
just a function of a high number of lawsuits. It is also a function of the
deadly nature of asbestos and the long latency period for asbestos disease,
which can be up to 40 years."
Mr. Bush's presentation on Friday was the third time in three days that he has
advanced the cause of changing the tort system.
On Thursday he met with senior lawmakers on a proposal that would move many
class-action lawsuits to federal courts from state ones. The proposal is widely
supported by businesses and strongly opposed by consumer, environmental and
civil rights organizations, which say it would close the door to many
meritorious claims. The federal judiciary, whose members have maintained that
the change could jam their courts with new claims, also opposes it.
The class-action bill, which has broad bipartisan support, is widely
be the first tort law measure taken up by the Senate early next month.
On Wednesday, Mr. Bush traveled to Madison County in southwestern Illinois, the
site of courts that business interests say are among the most sympathetic to
plaintiffs in the nation, to urge Congress to impose tight limits on medical
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