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Straight talk about asbestos.

Lawyer jokes and uninformed statements bashing the civil justice system have dogged plaintiff attorneys through many a golf game, PTA meeting, or dinner party. When a myth about trial lawyers rears its head, you need to respond with the facts.

Q: Don't you think the asbestos bill will stop asbestos lawsuits from clogging the courts and hurting the economy?

A: The asbestos crisis is a public health crisis--not a litigation crisis. Asbestos companies and their insurers have known for at least 30 years--and perhaps as long as 70 years--that asbestos can cause devastating illness and death to anyone who inhales even small amounts of asbestos fibers.

But these companies suppressed evidence of the dangers of asbestos to workers and their families, creating a public health catastrophe. Asbestos has killed 300,000 Americans so far and continues to kill 10,000 a year.

Congress should ban the use of asbestos, which is still used in the United States, is imported by the ton, and remains in 35 million home attics and countless schools across the country.

We should improve the civil justice system to make sure victims don't face unreasonable delays, but we shouldn't bail out the companies responsible for this health crisis, which is what they're lobbying Congress to do.

One of the biggest beneficiaries of the asbestos bill is W.R. Grace, the company that operated the notorious mine in Libby, Montana, that poisoned the entire town. Under the bill, this company, indicted by the Bush Justice Department for criminal conduct, would receive a $2.7 billion windfall.

The proposed asbestos bill would take away the rights of the people W.R. Grace poisoned, who would be left to apply to a government-run trust fund for compensation that even independent government analysts say will go bankrupt and fail to help victims. And the taxpayers could be left holding the bag.
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Date:Feb 1, 2006
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