WASHINGTON, D.C., May 22, 2003 - The United States Chamber of Commerce welcomed movement on Capitol Hill toward a solution on how to handle the tangle of asbestos lawsuits that are bankrupting companies across the country.
"Congress must act to protect people who have been harmed by asbestos and close the door on the unimpaired, who are looking for a quick payout," said Thomas Donohue, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber. "There is not a single legal issue more potentially damaging to the U.S. business community and our economy as a whole than asbestos litigation."
More than 60 companies have filed for bankruptcy because of asbestos claims, putting thousands of people out of work, and causing trickle-down devastation in towns across America, according to a recent study conducted for the Chamber by NERA Economic Consulting. The cost of asbestos litigation has been $54 billion so far, and total liability could pass $275 billion if no solution is found.
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has proposed a bill that promises to expedite payments, take care of the sickest victims, and create structure and guidelines in a currently unmanageable system. Numerous interest groups - from unions to corporations to associations - have been engaged in discussions about the scope and nature of legislation.
"Senator Hatch deserves high praise for taking on one of the most challenging and complex legal issues of our day," Donohue noted. "The U.S. Chamber will do everything in its power to drive this process forward and produce meaningful asbestos reform legislation by year end."
The nation's asbestos litigation system has been broken for decades - victims suffer long delays waiting for their cases to be heard, while plaintiff lawyers' fees keep mounting, according to the Chamber. The business community is united in the pursuit of a comprehensive solution, and the Chamber has called on its federation of three million members to support a bipartisan bill that results in fairness for all.