Litigation over personal injuries due to asbestos exposure has continued for more than 40 years in the United States, with hundreds of thousands of claims filed and billions of dollars in compensation paid. Many companies with significant liability for asbestos-related injuries have filed for bankruptcy, resulting in the creation of asbestos bankruptcy trusts, which pay claims on behalf of bankrupt defendants. While these trusts are playing an increasingly important role in the compensation of asbestos-related injuries, information about the operating procedures and activities of these trusts is not readily available. In particular – and most importantly from a fraud perspective – there is little analysis of how the trusts have affected the overall compensation that asbestos claimants receive and the asbestos liabilities of solvent defendants and their insurers.
The Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency Act would require the personal injury settlement trusts established by bankrupt asbestos lawsuit defendants to file quarterly reports with the bankruptcy courts. These reports would be available on the public docket and would describe each demand the trust has received from a claimant and the basis for any payment made to that claimant, excluding any confidential medical record or the claimant's full Social Security number. It would also require the trusts to provide any information upon request related to claims made from a party to any legal action if the subject concerns liability for asbestos exposure. This commonsense, bipartisan legislation would be a valuable resource in combating fraud in asbestos claims, which would ensure that trusts have sufficient funds to pay legitimate claims.
NAMIC supports legislation that would prevent the abuse of the asbestos trust fund system by increasing transparency in the claim process.