Letter to the Editor: U.S. Chamber ignores asbestos deaths

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Letter to the Editor: U.S. Chamber ignores asbestos deaths

The National Law Journal

November 28, 2011

In a recent op-ed, “Never-ending asbestos quagmire” [NLJ, Nov. 7], the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform really let its true colors show. While presenting baseless claims attacking the asbestos trust system to further protect its corporate financers, the Chamber fails to once mention the tens of thousands of Americans who have been killed by asbestos exposure.

Asbestos trusts were created by Congress to protect the interests of Americans suffering from asbestos exposure. The Chamber claims the trusts are both lacking transparency and rampant with fraud, yet a Government Accountability Office report released last month, commissioned by House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) (most likely at the request of the Chamber itself), found the exact opposite, a stunning rebuke. From the 47 trusts that the GAO reviewed, all of their annual financial reports included the total amount of payments made by the trusts. Most included the total number of claims received and paid, while also having robust audit programs in place. Additionally, asbestos defendants can readily obtain additional information related to trusts or claimants through direct requests to the trust or by way of court-ordered subpoenas.

Asbestos-related diseases continue to kill 10,000 Americans each year, most within one or two years after diagnosis. Unbelievably, this poison is still legal in the United States. The Chamber’s opinion piece, failing to once mention the death and destruction caused by asbestos, made it painfully obvious where its allegiances lie — with corporations that continue to poison Americans and hope to never be held accountable for it.

Gary M. Paul

The writer is the president of the American Association for Justice.

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