Washington, D.C., July 17—The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA) has joined the Asbestos Alliance, a coalition of businesses, associations and other groups advocating a fair solution to the growing asbestos-litigation problem, announces CEO Robert A. Rusbuldt.
The Alliance is working for congressional enactment of a legislative solution that ensures that those who are ill from exposure to asbestos-containing products are fairly compensated and helps keep defendant companies financially secure so they can pay present and future claims.
“Too many people are in denial, there is an asbestos-litigation crisis in this country that has dragged on far too long and there is no end in sight. It threatens the fair compensation of those people who are now ill or will become ill in the future,” explains Rusbuldt. “IIABA shares the Alliance’s goals to expedite settlements for those who are presently sick and to bring a sense of rationality to the legal system’s dispensation of these claims.”
“The Asbestos Alliance is delighted to have the support of IIABA in moving forward with our important and achievable goal of securing a fair solution to the growing asbestos-litigation problem,” says Michael Baroody, chairman of the Asbestos Alliance’s steering committee. “IIABA will extend the Asbestos Alliance’s reach to members of Congress.”
Since the ’70s, a staggering $20 billion in settlements and legal costs have been paid. More than 50 companies have been forced into bankruptcy. Yet, there is no end in sight—experts believe claims could continue for another 50 years and litigation costs could reach as high as $200 billion. Currently, there are an estimated 200,000 asbestos claims pending in state and federal courts. The total number of claims filed to date exceeds 555,000. Filings have increased dramatically, with more than 90,000 last year compared with 20,000 annually in the last decade.
Much of the litigation explosion is attributable to people who have little or no physical impairment filing claims, says Rusbuldt. “Many of these claimants are not yet ill and may never become sick,” describes Rusbuldt. “Their claims clog the courts and divert resources from the genuinely ill. This flood of unfounded claims seriously jeopardizes compensation for people suffering today with cancer and other diseases caused by exposure to asbestos.”
Without a solution, more companies will be forced into bankruptcy, delaying and reducing resources available to pay those who currently are ill or may become so in the future, warns Rusbuldt.
To fight litigation problems and to ensure resources are available, the Asbestos Alliance is advocating enactment of a legislative proposal that would ensure that settlements go to those who truly are suffering, explains Maria L. Berthoud, IIABA senior vice president of federal government affairs.
The legislation would establish objective medical criteria for asbestos-related impairment, liberalize statutes of limitation and other rules to remove incentives for premature filings, eliminate so-called “bet-the-company” case consolidations that lead to shotgun settlements with thousands of healthy people, and eliminate “forum shopping.”
“These limited, common-sense measures would not involve the creation of a new federal bureaucracy or use of taxpayer funds,” asserts Berthoud. “They would enable the courts to bring asbestos litigation under control and preserve the ability of defendants to compensate working people who contract cancer and other serious illnesses in the future, while avoiding unnecessary bankruptcies with their devastating effects on claimants, employees, shareholders, communities and the economy.
“Nearly all of the challenges of the current system lead to one of its most serious problems—people who become ill in the future are in danger of not being compensated,” says Berthoud. “Inaction is not an option. By enacting this legislative proposal, Congress will go a long way toward ensuring that funds will be available to compensate those people who will become ill with asbestos-documented illnesses in the future.”
The Asbestos Alliance, which is seeking a fair asbestos solution, is a coalition led by the National Association of Manufacturers and comprises asbestos defendant companies, trade associations and third-parties. The Alliance is seeking congressional legislation to solve America's asbestos-litigation crisis.
Founded in 1896, IIABA is the nation’s oldest and largest national association of independent insurance agents and brokers, representing a network of more than 300,000 agents, brokers and their employees nationally. Its members are businesses that offer customers a choice of policies from a variety of insurance companies. Independent agents and brokers offer all lines of insurance—property, casualty, life, health, employee benefit plans and retirement products. Web address: www.independentagent.com .