May 10, 2004 by Canadian Underwriter
Once more, legislation to tackle U.S. asbestos litigation has stalled, this time with negotiations breaking down on Senate bill S.2290. The bill would have established a trust fund to compensate victims of illness related to asbestos exposures, and is an attempt to curb widespread litigation which has led to the bankruptcy of several companies and threatened the financial solvency of some insurers.
Insurers, through the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), expressed their dismay over the failure of negotiations involving insurers, business leaders, lawyers, labor unions and legislators.
“Asbestos litigation has reached crisis proportions in the United States, impacting asbestos producers, users and their insurers, and peripheral defendants,” says Carl Perks, senior vice president at PCI. “It is imperative that members of Congress reach agreement on a compromise that appropriately compensates ill victims, while reducing transaction costs and providing absolute finality for defendants.”
Perks says insurers negotiated in good faith, but now accept the trust fund plan may not be “politically feasible at this time”.
“Unfortunately, the failure of these negotiations means that those most in need will remain uncompensated, American businesses will be subject to potentially devastating lawsuits, job creation in many businesses will be stifled, and abuse of the tort system will continue unabated.”