1.08.2005

From our "Won't Get Fooled Again" File: So–called "Tort Reform" (HA!)
Bush Takes Aim at Asbestos Litigation on Michigan Trip
Law.com (01.10)

Claiming that asbestos lawsuits clog the courts and cost jobs, President Bush urged Congress Friday to change the way people are compensated for illness caused by the deadly material. "The system isn't fair right now," Bush said.

"It's not fair to those who are getting sued and it's not fair for those who justly deserve compensation," said Bush, appearing at a performing arts center just north of Detroit. He claimed that companies have been forced into bankruptcy because of asbestos-related litigation that has cost the nation about $80 billion -- the majority of which is not seen by victims but swallowed up by legal and processing fees.

he also claimed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and currently claims that Social Security is in trouble, so I'm not sure I would believe anything this man says. Also, notice who he mentioned first: the folks getting sued. That's "compassionate conservatism" right there: compassion for business first and foremost.

But why is this such a big deal for Bush Co. (that is beyond their Neo–Calvinist belief that those with the most toys are more highly looked upon by God and that wealth should never be "re–distributed" as they call it)?
The American Trial Lawyers Association, however, says many of the companies that filed for bankruptcy were reorganized, not liquidated, and that few cases filed in court actually go to trial. Association President Todd Smith said Friday that Bush should spend time with patients suffering from asbestos–related diseases that kill more than 300,000 workers who have died from asbestos exposure.

"Sadly, we doubt the president will meet with any asbestos victims," Smith said. "Rather, he'll once again meet with the asbestos and insurance industries which are fighting as hard as they can to avoid being held responsible for this national health epidemic."

Well Todd Smith certainly seems to know our president! Give that man a prize. As always just wait, the best is yet to come:
Bush also urged Congress to find ways to protect third parties –– companies that he said have nothing to do with causing asbestos illnesses –– from lawsuits.

"Most of the asbestos producers are now bankrupt so that lawyers target companies –– once considered to be too small to sue, or once considered to be not directly involved in the manufacture of asbestos," Bush said. "Because there's nobody else to sue, they try to drag in people who aren't directly involved in the manufacturing of asbestos."

The Environmental Working Group, a Washington–based environmental research group that opposes Bush's proposed changes, says asbestos is a public health, not bankruptcy crisis. Halliburton is the latest company to "emerge" from asbestos bankruptcy proceedings, the group says.

In July 2004, the Houston–based Halliburton Co. won court approval for a $4.2 billion plan for settling asbestos–related health claims. A judge signed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring plan for several of Halliburton's key business units. The judge's action was one of the final hurdles before Halliburton subsidiaries, including KBR and DII Industries, could emerge from bankruptcy. They still must fund a trust, using cash, stock and notes, to pay future claims.

KBR and DII Industries filed for bankruptcy protection in 2003 to deal with claims by about 400,000 people who said they were injured by asbestos exposure. Halliburton, once run by Vice President Dick Cheney, inherited most of the claims five years ago when the conglomerate, during Cheney's tenure as chief executive officer, acquired Dresser Industries for $7.7 billion. Cheney left the company in 2000.

So there you go: Tort reform to protect big business (remember he also wants to move class–action suits to the federal courts... courts he's packing with idealogues). Why are we on this topic? Because bad things happen to good working–class people and often their only recourse is to sue. Who's looking out for you? Not Bush Co. that's for sure.

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