U.S. senators who voted to scuttle a proposed $140 billion fund for asbestos exposure victims are calling for a different approach to curb lawsuits that have bankrupted almost 80 companies.
As soon as the Senate shelved the fund plan yesterday on a procedural vote, opponents proposed an alternative: requiring victims to document their medical condition before suing for damages.
“We have a broken legal system that needs to be fixed,” said Senator John Ensign, a Nevada Republican. The new approach would “get rid of all the phony claims” and benefit actual victims, he said.
Four states — Florida, Texas, Georgia and Ohio — have laws that require victims to show their cancer or respiratory disease was caused by asbestos in order to file suit. Chicago-based USG Corp., the world’s largest wallboard maker, and insulation manufacturer Owens Corning, based in Toledo, Ohio, are among the companies forced into bankruptcy by asbestos claims.
“The starting point is obvious” for reform, said deputy Democratic leader Dick Durbin of Illinois, endorsing the state model. Changing the legal system would “make it fairer and quicker for victims to get fair compensation.”