OPPOSING H.R. 982, FURTHERING ASBESTOS CLAIM TRANSPARENCY (FACT) ACT OF 2013
Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to this bill.
I am acutely aware of the devastating impact that asbestos exposure has had on working men and women in this country because I represent an area with several shipyards. In the last few decades, in my district alone, several thousand local shipyard workers have developed asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma from asbestos exposure that occurred between the 1940s and the 1970s. Hundreds of these workers have already died, and asbestos deaths and disabilities are continuing due to the long latency period associated with the illness.
Now, I believe that we cannot consider legislation affecting victims of asbestos exposure without remembering exactly who caused the problem. Court findings show that companies made willful and malicious decisions to expose their employees to asbestos. There are several examples:
In one case in 1986, after hearing both sides, the New Jersey Supreme Court declared:
It is, indeed, appalling to us that the company had so much information on the hazards of asbestos workers as early as the mid-1930s and that it not only failed to use that information to protect the workers, but more egregiously, it also attempted to withhold this information from the public;
A few years earlier, the Superior Court, Appellate Division of New Jersey held in the same case:
The jury here was justified in concluding that both defendants, fully appreciating the nature, extent, and gravity of the risk, nevertheless made a conscious and cold-blooded business decision, in utter and flagrant disregard to the rights of others, to take no protective or remedial action;
In 1999, the Florida Supreme Court found:
The clear and convincing evidence in this case revealed that, for more than 30 years, the company concealed what it knew about the dangers of asbestos. In fact, the company's conduct was even worse than concealment; it also included intentional and knowing misrepresentations concerning the dangers of its asbestos-containing product.
That is who we are talking about, and those are the types of companies that will benefit from this legislation.
Now, any suggestion that people are getting paid more than once is absolutely absurd. The fact of the matter is, because of the bankruptcies, most of them are not getting anywhere close to what they actually would have been awarded, and the bill before us does not help those victims. It actually hurts them.
The bill is nothing but a scheme to delay the proceedings and to allow the victims to get even less than they get now. Because of the delay, many of the victims will die before they get to court. This helps the guilty corporations that have inflicted this harm on innocent victims because, if the plaintiffs die before they get to court, their pain and suffering damages are extinguished. If you can delay cases enough so that the plaintiffs will die before they get to trial, the corporations will not only get to delay their payments, but when they finally have to pay, they will have to pay much less.
These people are the ones who made those conscious and cold-blooded business decisions. They are the ones who will benefit from the bill at the expense of the innocent, hardworking victims. Regrettably, many of those victims are our veterans because they were working on Navy ships.
For these reasons, Mr. Speaker, I encourage my colleagues to oppose the rule and the underlying bill.