By Rob Lenihan
A bill that would revise disclosure requirements in the nation’s asbestos-related personal injury trust fund system is being hailed by its supporters for bringing much-needed transparency to the process, while opponents charge it will needlessly expose asbestos victims’ vital information.
On March 9 on a 220-201 vote, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 985, The Fairness in Class Action Litigation and Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2017, or FACT, which seeks, in part, to end so-called “double dipping,” where the bill’s supporters say an individual makes multiple claims against multiple asbestos trusts that were established to compensate asbestos victims.…
Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice & Democracy at New York Law School in New York City, said the bill “would force a lot of very private information about asbestos victims and family on to the public court docket, which is basically a public website.”
She added that making this type of information available on a public website leaves asbestos victims open to identity theft and other crimes.
“These people are dying,” Ms. Doroshow said. “They have primarily mesothelioma, which is a lethal cancer, so they will be dead within 18 months. And it’s an outrage that their personal information should be exposed like that for no reason because the asbestos companies in lawsuits have access to this information due to discovery process anyway.”
Ms. Doroshow maintained that “there’s no such thing as double-dipping in these cases,” explaining that a former Navy service member may have come into contact with several ships and several asbestos products over the course of his or her career.
“They have a right to go to each trust or company that contributed to their disease and get their share of compensation from the trust,” she said. “The companies that set up trusts have already conceded liability.”
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