It was what, maybe 6 months ago, that we posted a story about a federal asbestos bill, the proponents of which publicly argued was “needed” for “transparency,” but what they meant was really this:
OK, we’ve gone out of business and set up underfunded trusts (per bankruptcy laws) to pay compensation to the sick and dying, but the process is just too quick and easy! And that’s especially true for dying mesothelioma patients! So we need to make the process even more onerous by demanding that these trusts greatly increase their unnecessary paperwork, requiring a whole lot of new pointless personal information about victims –meanwhile victims die waiting for what’s owed them.
What we didn’t mention in our post was that this wasn’t just any asbestos bill. This one came Straight Outta ALEC (apologies to N.W.A.) although you’d never know that from the general media coverage of this issue. ALEC (you may know), or the American Legislative Exchange Council, is the influential, secretive organization that writes state bills to promote the agenda of corporate America. The bill is part of the agenda of ALEC’s very active Civil Justice Task Force, co-chaired by Victor Schwartz, General Counsel for the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA), a corporate group seeking to limit the liability of its corporate members. The legislation generated by this Task Force provides huge legal advantages for our nation’s most negligent and callous companies, many of which have been successfully sued over and over for recklessly causing death and injury to their customers. (See also, CJ&D’s report, America’s Worst Top Model as well as CJ&D’s Spotlight on Justice on the sordid past of the asbestos industry.)
While the federal bill ultimately went nowhere in Congress, states influenced by ALEC have been a different story altogether. Yesterday in Ohio, four state senate Republicans joined all 10 Democrats in trying to block this very same bill at the state level, but it wasn’t enough to defeat the legislation, which now moves to Gov. John Kasich’s desk. One of the bill’s major proponents was Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), who co-chairs ALEC’s Civil Justice Task Force with Victor Schwartz. So there’s that, too.
Writes the Ohio’s Toledo Blade,
Critics of the bill … accused majority Republicans of throwing up more obstacles to asbestos victims, a decade after passing a law that made it tougher for those exposed to the substance to sue. About 90 percent of some 40,000 asbestos cases pending in Ohio courts at the time were dismissed because the plaintiffs could not demonstrate substantial impairment of their health beyond simple changes in a chest X-ray.
“This legislation is again another example of the 129th General Assembly’s war on Ohio workers,” said Sen. Mike Skindell (D., Lakewood). “It is a piece of legislation brought to us in part by the corporate-influenced American Legislative Exchange Council, otherwise known as ALEC.…
Most manufacturers of products containing asbestos, including Toledo-based Owens Corning, long ago went through federal bankruptcy proceedings that resulted in the creation of more than 60 trusts against which asbestos victims could make claims. This bill is primarily focused on aiding other companies like Perrysburg-based Owens-Illinois that did not go through bankruptcy and are still fighting asbestos-related lawsuits more than 40 years after the fibrous substance was pulled from the market.