Utah Bill Runs Out the Clock on Asbestos Victims
Legislation that would delay and deny compensation to Utah residents who are sick and dying from asbestos-related diseases, a top priority for the asbestos and insurance industries, will be the focus of a key hearing before lawmakers next week in Salt Lake.
Roughly 1,300 Utahns Have Died from Asbestos-Triggered Disease Since 1999 Washington, D.C. (February 26, 2016)– Legislation that would delay and deny compensation to Utah residents who are sick and dying from asbestos-related diseases, a top priority for the asbestos and insurance industries, will be the focus of a key hearing before lawmakers next week in Salt Lake. T...
Roughly 1,300 Utahns Have Died from Asbestos-Triggered Disease Since 1999
Washington, D.C. (February 26, 2016)– Legislation that would delay and deny compensation to Utah residents who are sick and dying from asbestos-related diseases, a top priority for the asbestos and insurance industries, will be the focus of a key hearing before lawmakers next week in Salt Lake.
The bill, H.B. 403, introduced by Rep. Brad Wilson (R) on Tuesday, would erect a series of roadblocks that could significantly slow down, if not block, compensation to those who are sick and dying. The bill sets unachievable standards for workers and their families who were unknowingly exposed to asbestos.
Specifically, the bill would:
- Give asbestos defendant companies unlimited power to run out the clock on sick and dying victims and their families, by allowing them to submit numerous motions that repeatedly stay or delay a case.
- Make it effectively impossible for victims exposed to more than one source of asbestos from ever bringing a claim, because they would be required to demonstrate the exact “dose” they received in each exposure.
- Forfeit the privacy of families who make compensation claims by publishing highly private information, including the victim’s full Social Security number.
This bill will take away the rights of people like William Dale Petersen, 69, of St. George. He was exposed to asbestos when he installed and removed residential boilers and when he worked for Utah Power & Light in Salt Lake City as a steam plant mechanic. At no time did any of his employers provide any warnings that Mr. Peterson was at risk of asbestos exposure, even though it was widely known within the industry that it presented a significant threat. He has been diagnosed with terminal malignant mesothelioma. Dale and his family oppose HB 403.
“I was born, raised, worked and still reside in the great state of Utah and now, because of my exposure to asbestos here, I am going to die long before I should,” said Peterson. “Prior to my diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma just over a year ago, I was very active and enjoyed biking, hiking and traveling with my wife and family. In fact, it was during a bike ride that I first noticed the shortness of breath that led to my diagnosis of mesothelioma.”
“This disease has devastated my family and me . . . . As someone who will die because these companies withheld information about the hazards of their asbestos products, I do not feel it is me or other victims who should be made to suffer even one day more. This legislation would only cause more suffering for victims, deny us justice and rewards those who did us harm,” Peterson added.
A recent analysis by researchers with EWG Action Fund estimates that nearly 1,300 Utahns died between 1999 and 2013 from diseases caused from exposure to asbestos. The report combines federal records of deaths from mesothelioma and asbestosis from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with a formula developed by international cancer researchers with the World Health Organization for estimating lung cancer deaths from asbestos.
Between 1999-2013, every county in the state has been touched by asbestos-caused disease:
- 450 Salt Lake County residents died from asbestos diseases
- 166 Utah County residents died from asbestos diseases;
- 134 Washington County residents died from asbestos diseases;
- 133 Davis County residents died from asbestos diseases;
- 111 Weber County residents died from asbestos diseases.
“Many residents of Utah, including workers, teachers and students, remain at risk of being exposed to asbestos,” said Alex Formuzis with EWG Action Fund. “It was widely used by a number of industries and in the construction of schools, homes and other buildings up until the early 1980s. And, while its use has declined in recent years, the number of Americans who die annually from asbestos disease has not, and likely won’t for years to come.”
The “Asbestos Litigation Transparency Act” will be considered in the Utah House of Representatives’ Business and Labor Committee on Monday, February 29.
Corporations responsible for asbestos exposure have lobbied for similar legislation in states around the country; the vast majority of legislatures have rejected this legislation.
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.