Bill Would Strip Rights from Georgians Poisoned from Asbestos
WASHINGTON – Asbestos has devastated thousands of families in Georgia, with more than 4,100 residents dying from asbestos-triggered diseases between 1999 and 2017, according to a new analysis of the most recently available federal mortality data by the Environmental Working Group Action Fund.
The report comes as legislation, recently introduced in the Georgia state Senate, seeks to erect a series of difficult roadblocks meant to block the ability of current and future victims in the state sickened by asbestos exposure from seeking compensation in court from the corporations responsible for poisoning them. Asbestos was once widely used in a number of sectors in G...
The report comes as legislation, recently introduced in the Georgia state Senate, seeks to erect a series of difficult roadblocks meant to block the ability of current and future victims in the state sickened by asbestos exposure from seeking compensation in court from the corporations responsible for poisoning them.
Asbestos was once widely used in a number of sectors in Georgia, including the textile, construction and auto industries, and by the U.S. military.
As a population, veterans are disproportionately impacted by asbestos. While veterans make up just 8 percent of the U.S. population, they account for roughly 30 percent of Americans who contract mesothelioma – an extremely painful and always-fatal form of cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs, stomach and other organs. Its only cause is asbestos. According to the latest census data, there are nearly 700,000 veterans living in Georgia.
The bill, SB 415, includes a provision designed to run out the clock on many asbestos victims and their families seeking some small measure of justice. Specifically, the legislation would:
- Force asbestos victims to wait to file a lawsuit until their attorney has worked up trust claims that promise little or no meaningful recovery for a victim.
- Drastically alter procedural rules for asbestos cases to force courts to unfairly reduce judgments in favor of victims.
- Authorize defendant corporations to unilaterally delay trial repeatedly, so that victims could die before their day in court. Patients with mesothelioma usually die within months after diagnosis.
“Unless you’ve been through it, you can’t imagine how painful it is, or how hard it is to watch a family member suffer,” said Betty Baxley of Harlem, Ga. Her husband, Mickey, died in June 2017, less than a year after surgery for mesothelioma. “I don’t know much about this bill, but I know it will make it harder for victims and their families to be compensated for our loss. We need to stop using asbestos, but we also need to be fair to people like Mickey, who had no way of knowing it was dangerous.”
The concept of this one-sided legislation began at the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. The group incubates and disseminates legislative proposals written by industry for use by state legislators. A two-year investigation by USA Today, the Arizona Republic and The Center for Public Integrity highlighted the asbestos industry legislation as one of the examples of state lawmakers introducing measures written by outside interests.
ALEC is heavily funded by companies with major asbestos liability, including Koch Industries, which owns Georgia-Pacific, headquartered in Atlanta, Honeywell and 3M. Similar legislation is being considered or has already been enacted into law in a number of other states, including neighboring Florida.
Asbestos can linger in the body for decades before illness strikes. Patients who develop asbestos-related diseases today were exposed a generation ago, when the asbestos industry was fully aware of the dangers, but failed to warn and protect industrial workers, construction laborers, military personnel, and others who were exposed on the job or by contact with exposed family members.
About EWG Action Fund
EWG Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that is a separate sister organization of the Environmental Working Group. The mission of EWG Action Fund is to protect health and the environment by educating the public and lobbying on a wide range of environmental issues. Donations to EWG Action Fund are not tax-deductible.