“If you have enjoyed a good life while working with asbestos products, why not die from it.”
Nearly 50 years ago, the Director of Purchasing for the Bendix Corporation, a part of Honeywell, wrote those words. Today, asbestos companies and their public relations gurus are still waging war on cancer victims, including our military veterans.
Experts estimate 30 percent of all mesothelioma victims in the United States are military veterans. That’s a staggering number when you consider that between 1999 and 2007 the Center for Disease Control reported over 23,000 Americans died of the asbestos-related cancer. That’s approximately 7,000 service men and women. To put that statistic in context, approximately 5,000 military personnel have died in the U.S. War on Terror since 2011.
Meanwhile, the companies responsible for exposing veterans to the deadly carcinogen are lobbying for new bills at both the state and federal levels that would grant them sweeping advantages in the legal system, delaying and – in some cases – denying desperately needed compensation for medical treatments.
At the federal level, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the so-called Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency (FACT) Act out of committee despite bipartisan opposition. The move is a slap in the face to all victims of asbestos-related diseases, in particular our veterans as we head into Memorial Day weekend.
Andrew Cochran wrote a warning in the Legal Examiner explaining why this bill and others like it on the state level are harmful to veterans, especially Navy veterans.
If passed, the so-called FACT act would limit the 7th Amendment rights of asbestos victims by delaying compensation or raising legal barriers to full payment from asbestos trusts until after victims die, which leaves families and taxpayers to foot huge medical bills.
The act harms asbestos victims in three specific ways.
- It requires trusts to publicly disclose extensive, individual and personal claim information.
- It would allow asbestos defendant lawyers to demand any additional information from the trusts at any time for virtually any reason.
- It applies retroactively to the initial creation of the trust. This means every victim who has ever submitted or received a claim from an asbestos trust will be impacted.
Similar efforts to delay justice for asbestos victims are happening on the state level, too. Wisconsin veterans have expressed disappointment in the Wisconsin legislature for passing a similar bill that serves only to shield corporations from being held accountable for their asbestos liability.
For more than eighty years, corporations that produced and distributed asbestos-containing products – and their insurance companies – have attempted to avoid responsibility for the deaths and injuries of millions of American workers and consumers caused by those products. Since before 1930, they have hidden the dangers of asbestos and lied about their knowledge of those dangers, lobbied to make it harder for workers to sue for their injuries, fought to weaken protective legislation, and to this day continue to deny responsibility.
This “transparency” legislation is not what it pretends to be – an effort to make the tort system more responsive – but merely their latest affirmative effort to evade responsibility for their own malfeasance.
How many more veterans and others will have to suffer through a mesothelioma diagnosis before real change that makes a real difference in the lives of these people and their families is realized?
Write to your congressional leaders and tell them to support asbestos victims not the asbestos companies. Write to the national veterans groups and ask them to publicly weigh in and warn Congress about the FACT Act.