Head of legal reform institute says asbestos claims bill will help, not hurt

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Nov 11, 2013

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- The head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform says the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act will neither interfere with nor delay asbestos victims' ability to file legitimate lawsuits or trust claims.

Lisa Rickard, the head of the advocacy group, argues in a blog post on The Hill Monday that the legislation instead will mean improved funding, less fraudulent claims and privacy protection for victims.

"The FACT Act is an opportunity for Congress to ensure that the asbestos bankruptcy trusts it helped create 19 years ago actually benefit asbestos victims and are not depleted by fraudsters and plaintiffs' lawyers for their own benefit," she wrote.

The Institute for Legal Reform owns Legal Newsline.

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives could consider the legislation, along with another tort reform bill.

Both the FACT Act and the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act have been placed on the House's schedule, according to GovTrack.us.

The Hill reported last week that House Republicans are expected to "call up" the bills this week.

The FACT Act, or House Resolution 982, requires more transparency from asbestos trusts. The House Judiciary Committee passed the bill, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, in May.

The legislation would require asbestos personal injury settlement trusts authorized by federal bankruptcy law to disclose information on their claims on a quarterly basis and respond to information requests from parties to asbestos litigation.

The bill also would require the trusts to file public reports providing information with each claim for compensation they receive and would require the trusts to provide information about claims to parties in an asbestos suit upon request.

"A well-known British jurist once called secrecy 'the badge of fraud,'" Rickard wrote.

"It is time for Congress to lift the veil of secrecy over asbestos trusts and ensure that money set aside for asbestos victims goes to asbestos victims."

LARA, or House Resolution 2655, imposes mandatory sanctions on lawyers who file meritless suits in federal court.

The House Judiciary Committee passed the bill, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, in September.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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