May 26, 2003 by Canadian Underwriter
U.S. insurers celebrated a successful week on Capital Hill with the introduction of a bill to resolve the asbestos crisis and a House committee vote in favor of class action reform late last week.
Republican senator Orrin Hatch of Utah put forward a bill that sets up an asbestos “fund” to pay out claims. The legislation would also set up a federal court for asbestos suits and establish medical criteria for such claims. The “Asbestos Injury Claims Resolution Fund” would be privately paid for, and compensate on a no-fault basis.
The American Insurance Association (AIA) is urging lawmakers to pass the bill and praises Sen. Hatch for his leadership. “With the introduction of this bill and a call for markup, he is again driving Congress forward toward enactment of legislation in 2003,” says Leigh Ann Pusey, AIA senior vice president, federal affairs. “His proposal has the potential to bring fairness and certainty to an asbestos litigation system that is currently out of control. It will ensure that those who are truly sick from asbestos receive full compensation quickly without inflicting further financial devastation on entire sectors of our economy.”
The AIA also gave thumbs-up to the House Judiciary Committee’s approval of The Class Action Fairness Act of 2003. The bi-partisan bill would put multi-state class actions into federal court, as well as requiring “plain language” class action notices and judiciary review of “coupon” settlements (where litigants are given a coupon rather than money in compensation for a claim). “A fairer, simpler system protects consumers,” says Melissa Shelk, AIA vice president for federal affairs.
The Senate Judiciary committee has already passed similar legislation.