In previous posts, we discussed how the advocates of tort reform mounted a stealth campaign to restrict access to the civil justice system by using a variety of front organizations. In this post, we will discuss how these groups tried to influence asbestos legislation that would restrict the ability to file personal injury claims for asbestos-related illnesses.
The tort reform groups pushed for bills in state and federal legislatures that would make it more difficult for people with asbestos-related diseases to obtain justice and compensation. They also organized funded numerous informational campaigns that appeared on the surface to represent grass roots sentiment.
The effort began in 2005 with law review articles, academic papers and RAND Civil Justice Institute reports. The thrust of many of the writings was that the asbestos claims system was experiencing rampant fraud. This was despite a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study that found that there was hardly any incidence of fraud in the asbestos bankruptcy trusts.
The result of the campaign to limit asbestos claims resulted in legislation such as the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2012. This act was developed after so-called educational briefings held for representatives and their staffs by the Civil Justice Caucus Academy (CJCA) for an organization funded by the Koch brothers, conservative foundations, and a variety of industry groups. In addition to holding symposia, the CJCA hosted an invitation-only gala for legislative staff and a three-day visit to Colonial Williamsburg. Events such as these are free for attendees.
Look for our next post, which will outline the role of tort reform groups to help the tobacco industry.
Source: Trial, “Reclaiming Justice: Battling Tort ‘Reform’,” December 2012.