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Will Congress be able to pass tort reform measure this year?

Republican lawmakers in the House Judiciary Committee will reportedly again have the opportunity to consider legislation aimed at asbestos tort reform. Last week, Texas Representative Blake Farenthold apparently re-submitted for consideration a bill called the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act. The bill was originally introduced back in 2015 and then rolled into the Further Asbestos Claim Transparency Act in 2016.

The bill never gained traction and, in any case, was to be unsuccessful, as Barack Obama would have vetoed it even if it had been able to get past the Senate. This year’s version of the bill, which has not yet been combined with the FACT Act or any other bills, is expected to have a better shot, in part because Donald Trump has, in the past, been critical of the decision to move away from asbestos as a fire retardant in construction. A Republican majority in both houses of Congress is likely an advantage as well. 

The measure is especially aimed at false or exaggerated asbestos claims, and has the purpose of discouraging abuse of the compensation systems set up for asbestos victims. The bill would require quarterly reports on claims made to asbestos trusts while keeping claimants’ personal information confidential.

It would also require asbestos trusts to provide information requested in asbestos lawsuits by defendants who want to make sure plaintiffs aren’t “double-dipping.” The term refers to the practice of suing one company and fully blaming its products for harm from asbestos exposure while also blaming the products of companies that have established asbestos litigation trusts.

It isn’t clear yet how much support the tort reform measure will have, but we’ll be keeping an eye on any developments. Asbestos is, of course, a recognized human carcinogen and increases the risk of lung cancer and, most commonly, mesothelioma. It is critical for those who have been exposed to asbestos and suffered harm as a result to work with an experienced attorney to ensure they are adequately compensated. 

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