Quick note for our readers who follow asbestos mass tort issues: the House Judiciary Committee decided in a 17–14 party-line vote this week to reject various proposed amendments to the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2013 (H.R. 982). The FACT Act would require the various asbestos settlement trusts to make public disclosures detailing the claims to the trust and to provide certain information about claims on request (but not confidential medical records). The amendments were proposed by Democrats opposing the bill.
Passage of the Fact Act would allow defendants to properly assess a plaintiff’s complete exposure history. As it stands, plaintiffs often hide behind trust confidentiality to make solvent defendants believe that their products were far more responsible for the plaintiff’s disease than the true picture. As asbestos liabilities force more and more companies to file for bankruptcy, legislators need to preserve assets for appropriate claimants; the secrecy and abuse associated with the trusts undermines this as well.