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Legislators are once again weighing a measure designed to curtail the rights of mesothelioma victims seeking compensation from asbestos bankruptcy settlement trusts.
The Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2015 has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, and has passed to the House Judiciary Committee for the first round of consideration. If approved, the measure would amend the U.S. Bankruptcy Code by requiring those trusts to publicly disclose quarterly information regarding who is seeking compensation through the trust, as well as detailed information on who received compensation and the disposition of each asbestos-related injury claim.
This is the third time the measure, entitled H.R. 526, has been introduced. The first time it was brought was in 2012. While the measure purports to have a noble purpose – truth and transparency – there is no mistaking the underlying goal, which is to make it tougher for victims of negligent asbestos exposure to receive compensation through bankruptcy trusts and the court systems.
As of right now, the confidentiality of bankruptcy trust claimants is protected. Information regarding claimants’ illnesses and settlement terms is not admissible in court. However, the FACT Act would change this by giving trust administrators and mesothelioma litigation defendants more grounds on which to fight claims for compensation.
Backers of the bill assert claimants are deceptively pursuing compensation from multiple trusts and then later against other defendants in court for the same injuries. Supporters of FACT want the information public so that they can use it to attack the credibility of claimants who seek to prove injury caused by multiple defendants.
But here is the reality: many companies throughout the 20th century used asbestos in products because it was effective and cheap. Executives at these firms knew it was also dangerous and concealed that fact from workers and the public. They made products that were inherently dangerous and failed to warn people about those dangers. Since asbestos-related disease does not become apparent until decades after exposure, pinpointing a single exposure or product that caused illness is usually not possible. Asbestos-related diseases are widely accepted to result from repeated exposure to a variety of products – from auto brake shoes to Navy ship components to residential flooring tiles.
This is why claimants file for compensation from multiple companies and may also pursue additional litigation. It’s a matter of seeking just compensation from all responsible parties.
As it currently stands, claimants typically only recover a fraction of what they actually deserve through the trusts. The FACT Act could further minimize that recovery. Defendants want this information so they can argue a claimant’s recovery from one source should preclude recovery from another.
This approach is inherently unfair, given the overwhelming number of products that contained asbestos. If a plaintiff has enough proof to show exposure to asbestos contained in a defendant’s product substantially contributed to the plaintiff’s condition, that should be sufficient grounds for recovery.
The good news is govtrack.us, a government transparency website, has predicted the bill has only a 7 percent chance of making it past committee. Still, that’s not cause to let down our guard. Given the number of previous attempts, it does not appear some legislators are willing to drop the issue anytime soon.
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Frequently Asked Questions: Mesothelioma & Asbestos
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a carcinogenic, naturally occurring fibrous mineral. Known for its heat resistance and durability, asbestos has historically been used in insulation, construction materials, automotive parts, and shipbuilding materials.
Why is asbestos dangerous?
Asbestos is made up of small shard-like fibers that can easily become airborne when disturbed. If inhaled or ingested, these fibers can embed within the lining of the lungs, heart, stomach, or testes where they can cause cancer to form years or decades later.
What are asbestos-related diseases?
Asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.
What causes mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is an aggressive and incurable form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Unfortunately, symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear until decades after exposure.
What are the different types of mesothelioma?
Three of the most common types of mesothelioma are pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma, and pericardial mesothelioma.
What are common mesothelioma symptoms?
Common symptoms of mesothelioma include difficulty breathing and chest pains. Peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the stomach, may cause abdominal swelling, loss of appetite, constipation, abdominal pain, and nausea.
Do I qualify for compensation if I have mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a preventable form of cancer most commonly caused by asbestos exposure. If you were exposed to asbestos while serving in the U.S. military or while working in construction, mechanics, or a similar field, you may be eligible for compensation. Contact The Ferraro Law Firm for a free legal consultation.
What is the life expectancy for someone with mesothelioma?
There is no cure for mesothelioma. However, patients can receive treatments for mesothelioma that may extend their initial prognosis with proper treatment. Those diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma usually have a life expectancy that is greater than three years, though a large part of this depends on the stage the patient is diagnosed. The earlier the diagnosis, the longer the life expectancy and chance of long-term survival.
Do I qualify for compensation if I have mesothelioma?
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you should immediately seek long-term medical treatment. After that, you should contact our firm to examine your legal rights. Since 1985, The Ferraro Law Firm has represented individuals with asbestos-related diseases and pursued fair compensation on their behalf. Our firm is one of the top five law firms in the U.S. handling mesothelioma and asbestos cases.
Help for mesothelioma victims can be found at The Ferraro Law Firm by calling (888) 554-2030. Offices in Miami and Washington, D.C.
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