|Posted:||January 7, 2019 12:33 PM|
|From:||Representative Jesse Topper|
|To:||All House members|
|Subject:||Fairness in Claims and Transparency (FaCT) Act|
|In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation creating the Fairness in Claims and Transparency (FaCT) Act. This bill addresses a loophole in our current system of assessing responsibility for damages in asbestos-related suits which impose burdens on many Pennsylvania businesses.
Asbestos lawsuits date to the 1970s when companies that mined and milled asbestos or that incorporated significant percentages of the material in products used in the workplace were the primary targets of lawsuits. Beginning in the 1980s, many of those companies went bankrupt to shield themselves from suits in exchange for funding stand-alone trusts. These trusts currently make an estimated $30-60 Billion available to qualifying injured parties through a simplified claim process. A company declaring bankruptcy and using the trust process can never be sued in court.
Some claimants who receive money from these trusts now also file court cases against other businesses. These businesses are not part of the bankruptcy trust and therefore they can be held liable in court even after the claimant has already received compensation from the trust. These businesses, often with very limited connection to any injury, have been forced to shoulder massive liability as a result of these lawsuits. The juries in these cases are rarely if ever even made aware that the claimant has made claims against others.
Two particular problems have arisen. First, clever manipulation of the litigation and bankruptcy trusts can result in "double-dipping" where a claimant can recover twice for the same injury – once through the courts, and a second time through the bankruptcy trusts. Second, because the representations made by claimants in the asbestos bankruptcy trust system are not public, it is possible for claimants to make inconsistent statements within the different systems. In a recent federal bankruptcy case, Garlock Industries, the court found massive manipulation and inconsistent statements by claimants and their counsel.
My bill corrects likely problems in the following manner: First, the bill would apply the principles of our Fair Share Act to asbestos litigation such that defendants would pay only for their individual fault. Second, the bill would require claimants to make and disclose all their bankruptcy claims up front. Disclosure of this information will allow a judge or jury to consider all exposures.
The bill is simple, and it would make our law fair. I ask you to join me in co-sponsoring this beneficial legislation. Thank you in advance for your consideration.
Previous Co-sponsors include: TURZAI, CUTLER, DIAMOND, MILLARD, KAUFFMAN, ZIMMERMAN, SCHEMEL, WHEELAND, BARRAR, DELOZIER, SAYLOR, TOEPEL
Introduced as HB1026