Mesothelioma Trust Funds
Responding to a string of recent asbestos-related lawsuits, in 2005 Congress brought forth legislation piece S. 852: FAIR Act of 2005, which GovTrack explains aimed to create “a fair and efficient system to resolve claims of victims for bodily injury caused by asbestos exposure, and for other purposes.” These pieces of legislation are abbreviated as FAIR bills, which is the acronym for “Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution.” Although this legislation did not become written into law, it introduced controversial concerns for asbestos disease sufferers and businesses within the United States by proposing a national trust fund to be contributed to by all companies that are guilty of causing asbestos exposure.
The purpose of mesothelioma trust funds is to effectively end asbestos litigation, protect companies from financial loss and expedite and simplify the legal process for victims. However, opponents of this legislation feel that taking the ability of sufferers to take companies to court for past negligence hurts their ability to collect fair compensation for their exposure. Most notably illustrated in the Johns-Manville case, the risk of an under-funded trust represents one of the major arguments against this system of providing compensation. As a result of a seriously underestimated number of victims and later bankruptcy, that fund has been suspended twice and reduced to the point that claimants now receive less than what is owed to them, which might not even cover their related medical expenses.
In addition, the establishment of a trust fund would likely create a set of delays as a result of lumping potentially thousands of claimants into the same pool. With so many cases to review and decide upon, it could conceivably be years before patients see compensation or new cases could be added. Furthermore, the types of exposure and dates might limit those who can seek compensation under these trusts. Under these proposed FAIR Acts, only those who can prove workplace exposure could collect compensation for the development of mesothelioma.
However, proponents of these trust cases point to the simplified process of collecting compensation, which can often drag on to the point that the claimant perishes before ever seeing resolution or due compensation. Furthermore, trusts also set a schedule of benefits that establish unified reward amounts, based on a patient’s physical condition. Other past criticisms of the nature of tort trials is that award is not based on one’s level of suffering or company negligence, but rather on arbitrary trial factors like legal representative skill and jury sympathy. Furthermore, proponents claim creating funds will eliminate costly legal obligations and allow more money to reach the patients.