October 28, 2011

Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act

he Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act is one of many pieces of legislation proposed to handle claims filed by individuals affected by asbestos poisoning. Issues surrounding victims' rights and fair compensation have made it difficult for legislators to negotiate terms that suit the victims and the manufacturers of asbestos products.

Asbestos Poisoning

Asbestos poisoning results from inhaling asbestos fibers over long periods of time. These fibers are microscopic in size and can easily become lodged inside the lungs and air passageways, according to Asbestos News. Workplace exposures in industries that manufacture asbestos pose the greatest health risk. Asbestos poisoning is a known cause for lung-related conditions, such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and respiratory disorders. Unlike other toxin-related diseases, symptoms of asbestos poisoning can take anywhere from 20 to 40 years to appear. Because of the serious health effects involved, individuals affected by asbestos have a legal right to compensation for previous workplace exposures.

Compensation Act

The Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act was first proposed in 1999 as a means for addressing the multitude of lawsuits being filed by individuals affected by the asbestos manufacturing industry, according to Asbestos News. The intention was to create a federally based office through which asbestos-related lawsuits and claims would be handled. Individuals would have to meet a certain set of medical criteria in order to be eligible for compensation. The Compensation Act also sought to set up a fund from which all eligible asbestos claims would be paid.


Because of the complex issues surrounding workers' rights, environmental health and consumer rights, any legislation involving asbestos poisoning requires input from several government branches. Areas of government that affect asbestos legislation include the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Lawsuit claims filed against the manufacturing industry has resulted in multiple bankruptcies and lost jobs. According to the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, the number of companies sued as a result of asbestos-related diseases totals more than 8,000.


The Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act--developed by House Representative Henry Hyde in 1998--included 11 points that have remained central to the ongoing debate concerning asbestos litigation, according to Asbestos, a mesothelioma resource site. These points address the known health risks associated with workplace exposures, the need for an organized system for litigating these case, and the lack of criteria for determining whether a claimant qualifies for compensation. The actual passage of the 1999 bill never took place because of controversies surrounding victims' rights and eligibility criteria for claimants.

Claims Criteria Act

Modifications to the Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act were made in 2003 and 2005 in an attempt to address the discrepancies that prevented the initial bill from passing. The Asbestos Claims Criteria and Compensation Act of 2003 sought to establish private financing for a national trust fund from which asbestos victims would be compensated, according to Asbestos News. This act also incorporated a strict set of medical criteria for eligible claimants. Attempts to pass this version of the bill were also unsuccessful.

Injury Resolution Act

The modifications made in the 2005 proposal sought to set up funding on a federal level to try to resolve discrepancies encountered with the 2003 proposal. According to the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, the Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act of 2005 proposed a $140 billion national trust fund with the provision that plaintiff attorney fees would be capped at 5 percent. This bill also incorporated the medical criteria requirement. In this instance, no legislation was passed because of controversies surrounding caps on attorney fees as well as the medical criteria requirement.