Asbestos Claims Trust Page -1
Asbestos lawsuit reform bill ready
Hatch to introduce legislation Thursday
By Jon Groat, Medill News Service
Last Update: 5:56 PM ET May 20, 2003
WASHINGTON (CBS.MW) - Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch will breathe new life into an old
debate when he introduces a bill Thursday to reform the way asbestos-illness lawsuits are
The bill, if passed into law, would create a separate Washington-based claims court to dole out
awards to those who can prove their illnesses are asbestos-related, according to a draft of the
Money for the trust fund - which would reportedly total $108 billion -- would come from insurance
companies and companies that have already faced lawsuits because they exposed workers to
After a flurry of asbestos reform bills introduced in recent months and years, Hatch's draft may
carry more weight because the Utah Republican is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Under the bill, a five-judge claims court would decide awards for those who meet strict criteria
dictating what constitutes asbestos-related illness.
If Hatch's bill were enacted, people exposed to asbestos but with no signs of related illness would
no longer be able to file lawsuits to recover damages in federal or state courts. Instead, only
those with illnesses would be able to file a claim.
Within two years of a doctor's diagnosis, claimants would have to file documentation like x-rays,
pulmonary function tests and lab results that prove their illnesses are related to exposure to
Those who prove a certain level of illness would be awarded $400,000 if they have asbestosis,
$400,000 if they have lung cancer and $750,000 if they suffer from mesothelioma, the most
serious asbestos-related lung ailment.
Payments would be made over a three-year period or more. Smokers would receive considerably
For example, a claimant who is a smoker but who