Today's News

Asbestos victims' compensation bill introduced

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) introduced a bill this week that would create a $140 billion trust fund to pay asbestos victims' claims while barring some smokers from benefits and curbing payouts to trial lawyers, according to The Washington Post.

The measure remains strongly opposed by insurers and some victim groups. Also, some members of the GOP are unhappy with the proposal, indicating they think it is too generous, reports the Post.

Specter said he expected the Judiciary Committee to take up the measure within two weeks.

The bill promises funding of $40 billion in the first five years from asbestos producers and users and their insurers, and an additional $20 billion of borrowing authority. Additional funding would be provided later; the trust fund would be scheduled to last 30 years. It also promises prompt payment of "exigent" claims (those in which the victim has a life expectancy of less than a year), and two years for others, or victims would be allowed to return to the courts.

It also would allow victims to return to the courts should total funding prove inadequate.

The measure would exclude people with lung cancer who also were smokers unless they can show a connection between their cancer and asbestos.

Insurers are unhappy that the measure might allow victims to return to the courts, reports the Post. At the same time, other groups began circulating estimates that the $140 billion would not be enough to provide adequately for all asbestos victims.

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