FAIRNESS IN CLASS ACTION LITIGATION AND FURTHERING ASBESTOS CLAIM TRANSPARENCY ACT
Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Chair, I rise in opposition to H.R. 985. In addition to the legislation's many problems that have already been mentioned by my colleagues, I am particularly concerned about what the bill does in the so-called FACT Act, which will have a devastating impact on workers exposed to asbestos.
I am acutely aware of the devastating impact that asbestos exposure has 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 1970s. Hundreds of these workers have already died, and asbestos deaths and disabilities are continuing due to the long latency period associated with this illness.
I believe that we cannot consider the legislation affecting the victims of asbestos exposure without remembering exactly who caused the problem. Court findings show that the companies made willful and malicious decisions to expose their employees to asbestos. Here are a couple of examples.
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 of 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, in New Jersey said that: ``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 coldblooded business decision, in utter and flagrant disregard of the rights of others, to take no protective or remedial action.''
In a separate case in Florida, after hearing both sides, the court declared that:
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 danger of its asbestos-containing product.
That is who we are talking about. These are the types of companies who will benefit from this legislation. Any suggestion that people are getting paid more than once is absurd. The fact of the matter is, because of bankruptcies, most of them aren't getting anywhere close to what they actually should be receiving, but the bill before us does not help those victims. It actually hurts them.
The bill is nothing more than a scheme to delay the proceedings and allow the victims to get even less than they are getting 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 they can delay the cases enough so that the plaintiffs die before they get to trial, the corporations will not only get to delay their payments, but when they finally pay, they will pay much less.
These are the people who made those conscious and coldblooded business decisions. Those are the ones who will actually benefit from this legislation at the expense of hardworking, innocent victims. The victims of this corporate wrongdoing oppose this bill.
Regrettably, many of those victims are our veterans because they were working aboard Navy ships.
Mr. Chair, we should reject this legislation.