OP ED: Sen. Kennedy can protect Americans harmed by asbestos and end fraud threatening Louisiana businesses

Shane Comeaux
Shane Comeaux

President Trump promised during his campaign to work to reduce frivolous lawsuits and clean up fraud that threatens American businesses and costs taxpayers millions of dollars every year. Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., can help put a bill on the president’s desk that would do just that.

U.S. companies are being forced to close because of fraudulent asbestos claims. Even worse, the scam conducted threatens to rob money from the people actually harmed by asbestos.

When asbestos was determined to have serious health effects, lawsuits were brought by people exposed to asbestos, such as plumbers, pipefitters, electricians and veterans who served on ships and submarines.

More than 100 companies filed for bankruptcy because of asbestos litigation. Many of these businesses established trust funds as part of bankruptcy protection to ensure future victims of asbestos-related illnesses would have access to financial assistance.

Unfortunately, these trusts have become a target for shady trial lawyers and dishonest individuals who double dip by filing similar claims in more than one asbestos trust. Some have even filed multiple claims declaring they were employed by several companies they never worked at in order to have access to different trusts and can sue multiple businesses. 

As it stands currently, there is no way to know if a claimant already received an award from a trust fund, thus allowing them to file against multiple trusts. These fraudulent suits result in less money in the trust funds to pay out to legitimate claimants and put more companies at risk of bankruptcy and more jobs in jeopardy.

In one instance, a claimant sued 22 companies using one claim of asbestos exposure, and also pursued claims against 20 trusts from bankrupt companies using a completely different claim. Here in Louisiana, several companies have been harassed by these unreasonable lawsuits and asbestos claims. Monroe Rubber and Gasket, a family business in Monroe, has been sued more than 100 times -- for a product that is legal and harmless. If just one of these fraudulent lawsuits get through, it would put them out of business, costing the jobs of all employed by the company. 

Kennedy can be a part of the solution to help these companies as well as people truly suffering with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses who rely on the trust funds remaining solvent for compensation.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a common-sense solution that will ensure deserving Americans receive compensation while preventing fraud and double dipping. 

The Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency, or FACT, Act requires asbestos-related personal injury trust funds to file quarterly claims disclosure reports, creating transparency that would prevent bad actors from gaming the system by filing duplicate claims. This transparency wouldn’t come at the expense of the privacy of those who are not cheating the system. The bill puts the same protections in place that the court systems use to protect personal information.