NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 12, 2005

If and when the Senate's asbestos trust fund goes bankrupt, there will be two options: Either the asbestos issue will return to the courts, putting victims and defendants back where they are today, or Congress will decide to hook taxpayers for the massive sums of money the trust fund promises litigants, says the Washington Times.

According to the National Taxpayers Union (NTU):

  • Instead of a trust fund, Congress should consider legislation that tightens criteria for filing claims, extends filing deadlines and limits punitive damages.
  • In other words, it thinks Congress should look at a House Republican Study Committee proposal to tighten the rules but keep asbestos in the courts.
  • That proposal, the Asbestos Compensation Fairness Act, is all but certain to be shunned by Democrats and isn't on Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's agenda.

A compromise is in order here, says the Times. In theory, a trust fund could work if the following conditions were met: if all defendants participated fairly, if strict medical criteria were enacted and if there were no possibility that taxpayers could end up footing the bill. Those were the elements lacking in previous funds that went bust.

At present, the Senate proposal fails on all three counts:

  • The NTU predicts that small firms will be fleeced.
  • It concludes that the fund's medical criteria "are more liberal than those generally accepted in the tort system" -- which is already clogged with fraudulent suits.
  • Lastly, no one knows what Congress will do 10 years from now if the fund goes bust; if history is any indication, it will pass the buck to taxpayers.

The only way to fix the fund is to merge it with the House's medical-criteria proposals and its other anti-fraud and pro-taxpayer ideas, says the Times.

Source: Editorial, "Fix the asbestos trust fund," Washington Times, December 12, 2005.


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