Sholty: Asbestos trust fund won’t help

While the Wisconsin State Journal should be applauded for weighing in on the current asbestos litigation and tort problems facing this country, its ultimate support for the Specter-Leahy trust fund is misplaced.

For over a decade, our courts have been bogged down in asbestos-related lawsuits, with unscrupulous lawyers and faux victims feeding at the trough of a litigation lottery. Solutions have eluded Congress and the “trust fund” proposed by U.S. Sens. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., doesn’t solve the problem.
Protecting real victims of asbestos-related diseases should be our paramount concern, not trial lawyers, who have successfully driven thousands of businesses into bankruptcy.
The proposed trust fund is a $140 billion tax on American business and creates another government agency in charge of picking winners and losers.
The Wisconsin State Journal appropriately and succinctly points out that, “In recent years the real victims of asbestos have been joined by opportunists.” But the legislation being lauded by Specter and Leahy would only make matters worse, by rewarding trial lawyers with a guaranteed payout of nearly $7 billion.
U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon, R- Utah, has introduced sound legislation that requires that claimants meet medical standards, based primarily on the American Medical Association’s Guides for the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, as well as elements of standards recently approved by the American Bar Association. Establishing medical criteria will allow the courts to prioritize cases and ensure that real victims receive full compensation.
By enacting legislation that puts real victims at the front of the line, not trial lawyers, we can begin to put this issue behind us and expedite the legitimate claims of hundreds of thousands of victims and save hundreds of businesses that cannot afford to pay the taxes for this ill-advised scheme.

Sholty is Wisconsin director of Freedom Works, a project of the industry-backed groups Citizens for a Sound Economy and Empower America.