If you were (or, of course, still are) a Sopranos devotee, you probably remember the episode Kennedy and Heidi during the show’s last season – the one where Tony puts Christopher out of his misery for good. (See #83 ) It’s one of the show’s most acclaimed episodes and like all of them, in no small part to the brilliant James Gandolfini who tragically passed away on Wednesday.
And I'm reminded that the episode was bookended by something else we're talking about today - asbestos! It begins with an outdoor meeting about asbestos dumping and ends with actual asbestos dumping – right into a lake. (Talk about sleeping with the fishes! ) I may have cringed more watching that scene than watching any actual acts of violence on the show. After all, asbestos is a poison that, thanks to a massive, decades-long corporate cover up, has killed hundreds of thousands of people and injured millions more, many suffering from the lethal cancer known as mesothelioma.
Recently, we’ve railed against a particular piece of congressional legislation that was “rammed through” the House Judiciary Committee and may be put on the House floor soon, which would create enormous hardships for sick and dying asbestos victims. And today, those opposed to this destructive legislation got some help – a clear, decisive editorial from the New York Times slamming this bill. Here’s some of what the editorial board wrote:
Bills at the state level, which approach the same phony “fraud” issue by tackling state law directly (as opposed to trying to restrict trusts, which were set up by bankruptcy courts and thus the jurisdiction of Congress alone), are even worse for victims. They’re part of model legislation written for the asbestos industry by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the influential, secretive organization that writes state bills to promote the agenda of corporate America. Hoping this NY Times editorial has some influence there too.
The bill is supposedly designed to root out fraud and abuse, but there is no persuasive evidence of any significant fraud or abuse. Before plunging ahead with this misguided attempt to protect asbestos companies from lawsuits, Congress ought to commission an objective study of whether there is even a problem that needs fixing.…
The Republican bill, known as the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act (FACT) of 2013, would allow asbestos companies to demand information from the trusts for virtually any reason, forcing the trusts to devote limited resources to responding to fishing expeditions that will slow the process of paying claims.
The bill would also increase the burden on claimants to supply information. But it puts virtually no burdens on asbestos companies, like disclosing the settlements they have reached with plaintiffs or requiring them to reveal where their products were used and when, so that workers know which companies or trusts might be liable for their injuries.