There’s nothing fair about the FAIR Act

Americans agree that we must preserve an equitable and efficient legal system. False claims and unnecessary bureaucracy weigh our courts down, costing all of us money and, most importantly, stealing from legitimate cases that require serious consideration and compensation. While we should encourage ways to reform our litigation process, it is critical to make sure we don’t actually add fuel to the fire.

U.S. Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Patrick Leahy of Vermont are the sponsors of Senate Bill 852, the so-called FAIR Act (The Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act of 2005). I ask our senators, Gregg and Sununu, to please take a long, hard look at how this legislation will affect the lives of many who are seriously ill and presently seeking compensation for their plight.

Despite its title, S. 852 is anything but fair. Claimants who are currently in the legal process would be sent back to square one. This includes dying victims who have acquired mesothelioma and will most likely pass away while waiting for their case to be heard.

The fact that the 500,000 cases currently in the system will be transferred into S. 852’s newly created trust fund will no doubt kick off this “resolution” with a huge backlog and risk of inadequate funding. Once these cases are heard, the victims’ wait continues. Those administering the trust fund would be given up to three to four years to pay a claim after it has been approved. This is no way to handle individual cases that the courts have begun to process.

Another flaw in this legislation is its failure to establish strict medical criteria in order to verify the legitimacy of claims. S. 852 therefore will only exacerbate an atmosphere wrought with frauds seeking to cash in on this opportunity, while true victims will suffer from an increasingly inefficient legal process.

Top this off with the fact that a very large chunk of the money raised for this trust fund will be done through a business tax. The $140 billion tax on American businesses created by S. 852 would be a devastating charge with grand economic consequences.

S. 852 has few redeeming qualities. I urge our senators to scrutinize this piece of legislation before casting their vote. Punishing victims of asbestos exposure by creating a spider web of red tape will not resolve the problems surrounding asbestos litigation. Real reform makes marked improvements. This bill will only make changes and could create a greater mess than what we face today.

Shawn Spooner is the owner and operator of Sunapee Coach in Hooksett.

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