WASHINGTON - In a letter sent to U.S. Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Dirk Van Dongen, president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW), voiced his strong opposition to S. 2290, the "Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act." The legislation is designed to resolve the growing asbestos litigation problem by creating a trust fund - paid into by manufacturers, distributors, and others involved in asbestos lawsuits - which would then pay the claims of injured parties.

Van Dongen stated in his letter, "The trust fund approach adopted in S. 2290 suffers from the same weakness that plagued its predecessor in S. 1125, the ‘Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act of 2003.' Many wholesaler-distributors and others face larger out-of-pocket asbestos-related costs under S. 2290 than they do under the tort system now in place.

"At the same time, this bill proposes to dramatically reduce the costs paid by others. This, we believe, is grossly unjust. The effort in which NAW has participated to ameliorate this problem has proven unsuccessful to date."

The letter continued, "Regrettably, our experience in this legislative effort has led us to conclude that the trust fund approach has for some stakeholders become little if anything other than a cost-shifting exercise aimed at bailing out those now experiencing the unwelcome economic effects of decisions made years ago, at the expense of everyone else. Consequently, despite your laudable efforts, NAW believes that the trust fund approach contained in S. 2290 is fundamentally flawed, incapable of providing a fair and balanced solution to this problem."

Van Dongen's letter concludes, "We stand ready and are anxious to work with you in the search for an approach that offers a reasonable prospect for success that has for too long proven elusive."

Publication date: 04/05/2004