Summary of Hearings on Asbestos Legislation
- February 2, 2005: The Senate Judiciary
Committee hearing on "Asbestos: Mixed Dust and FELA Issues."
"Asbestos: Mixed Dust and FELA Issues"
February 2, 2005
Dr. Laura Welch, Medical Director, Center to Protect Worker Rights
Mr. Michael B. Martin, Partner, Maloney, Martin and Mitchell, L.L.P.
Dr. David Weill, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary
and Critical Care Sciences, Transplant Program University of Colorado
Health Sciences Center
Professor Lester Brickman, of Law Cardozo Law School of the Yeshiva
Dr. Theodore Rodman, Retired Professor of Medicine,Temple University
Dr. Paul Epstein, Clinical Professor of Medicine, Chief, Pulmonary
and Critical Care Medicine Penn Medicine at Radnor
Mr. Paul R. Hoeferer, Vice President & General Counsel, BNSF Railway
Mr. Donald F. Griffin, Director of Strategic Coordination and Research,
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing February 2 to consider
adding other mixed-dust claims to a draft $140 billion asbestos trust
fund bill, sponsored by Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA). In
particular, the panel sought to distinguish asbestosis from silicosis
or other occupational lung diseases, and "the need for additional
language in the legislation for these questions" according to
one of the panelists. The hearing and the continuation of the bill's
draft phase are in response to concerns voiced by Insurance and other
Industry officials, who fear people suffering from asbestos-related
health problems would take advantage of asbestos trust fund benefits
while using the tort system to claim compensation for other mixed-dust
related respiratory illness under the Federal Employers' Liability
Controversy surfaced among Democrats, who voiced concern that adding
provisions for silica and other mixed dust claims would considerably
stall the bill. According to Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT),
"some special interests are trying to limit their liability on
cases not related to asbestos through a last-minute, overly broad
provision that could jeopardize the years of work spent developing
a bipartisan asbestos trust fund."
Doctors testifying before the committee said that asbestosis and
silicosis result from different sorts of exposure and that a patient
would rarely suffer from both. "Silicosis is due to the formation
of nodules in the lung, on pathology quite distinct from the scarring
seen in asbestosis," said Laura Welch, Medical Director with
the Center to Protect Workers' Rights.
Professor Lester Brickman called Silicosis "A legal, not medical
epidemic," adding that "allowing claimants to obtain double
will defeat the very purpose of the National Asbestos
Compensation Program, which is to substitute a fair and efficient
administrative compensation system for a tort system that is out of
Panelists recommended that plaintiffs claiming silica
exposure must disclose previous asbestos claims or medical reports
mentioning asbestosis. Senator Specter was open to all recommendations,
expressing desire to seek a compromise and get the bill out of the
committee as soon as possible.
Sources: Environment and Energy Daily; Hearing testimony.
Contributed by Katie Ackerly, AGI/AAPG 2005 Spring Semester Intern
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.
Last updated on February 7, 2005