Home > 106th Congressional Bills > H.R. 1587 (ih) To encourage States to establish competitive retail markets for electricity, to clarify the roles of the Federal Government and the States in retail electricity markets, to remove certain Federal barriers to competition, and for other purpo...

H.R. 1587 (ih) To encourage States to establish competitive retail markets for electricity, to clarify the roles of the Federal Government and the States in retail electricity markets, to remove certain Federal barriers to competition, and for other purpo...


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108th CONGRESS
  1st Session
                                H. R. 1586

    To provide for the fair and efficient judicial consideration of 
   personal injury and wrongful death claims arising out of asbestos 
 exposure, to ensure that individuals who suffer impairment, now or in 
   the future, from illnesses caused by exposure to asbestos receive 
        compensation for their injuries, and for other purposes.


_______________________________________________________________________


                    IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

                             April 3, 2003

  Mr. Cannon introduced the following bill; which was referred to the 
                       Committee on the Judiciary

_______________________________________________________________________

                                 A BILL


 
    To provide for the fair and efficient judicial consideration of 
   personal injury and wrongful death claims arising out of asbestos 
 exposure, to ensure that individuals who suffer impairment, now or in 
   the future, from illnesses caused by exposure to asbestos receive 
        compensation for their injuries, and for other purposes.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE; TABLE OF CONTENTS.

    (a) Short Title.--This Act may be cited as the ``Asbestos 
Compensation Fairness Act of 2003''.
    (b) Table of Contents.--

Sec. 1. Short title; table of contents.
Sec. 2 Findings and purposes.
Sec. 3. Physical impairment.
Sec. 4. Procedures; removal.
Sec. 5. Statute of limitations; two-disease rule.
Sec. 6. Scope of liability; damages.
Sec. 7. Liability rules applicable to product sellers, renters, and 
                            lessors.
Sec. 8. Definitions.
Sec. 9. Miscellaneous provisions.
Sec. 10. Effective date.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS AND PURPOSES.

    (a) Findings.--The Congress finds that--
            (1) asbestos is a mineral that was widely used prior to the 
        1980s for insulation, fire-proofing, and other purposes;
            (2) millions of American workers and others were exposed to 
        asbestos, especially during and after World War II and prior to 
        the advent of regulation by the Occupational Safety and Health 
        Administration in the early 1970s;
            (3) long-term exposure to asbestos has been associated with 
        various types of cancer, including mesothelioma and lung 
        cancer, as well as such nonmalignant conditions as asbestosis, 
        pleural plaques, and diffuse pleural thickening;
            (4) the diseases caused by asbestos often have long latency 
        periods;
            (5) although the use of asbestos has dramatically declined 
        since 1980 and workplace exposures have been regulated since 
        1971 by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, past 
        exposures will continue to result in significant claims of 
        death and disability as a result of such exposure;
            (6) exposure to asbestos has created a flood of litigation 
        in state and Federal courts that the United States Supreme 
        Court has characterized as ``an elephantine mass'' of cases 
        that ``defies customary judicial administration and calls for 
        national legislation,'' Ortiz v. Fibreboard Corporation, 119 S. 
        Ct. 2295, 2302 (1999);
            (7) asbestos personal injury litigation can be unfair and 
        inefficient, imposing a severe burden on litigants and 
        taxpayers alike;
            (8) the extraordinary volume of nonmalignant asbestos cases 
        continues to strain state and Federal courts, with over 200,000 
        cases currently pending and over 50,000 new cases filed each 
        year;
            (9) asbestos personal injury litigation has already 
        contributed to the bankruptcy of more than 60 companies, 
        including nearly all manufacturers of asbestos textile and 
        insulation products, and the rate of asbestos-driven 
        bankruptcies is accelerating;
            (10) the vast majority of asbestos claims are filed by 
        individuals who allege they have been exposed to asbestos and 
        who may have some physical sign of exposure, but who suffer no 
        present asbestos-related impairment;
            (11) the cost of compensating exposed individuals who are 
        not sick jeopardizes the ability of defendants to compensate 
        people with cancer and other serious asbestos-related diseases, 
        now and in the future; threatens the savings, retirement 
        benefits, and jobs of defendants' current and retired 
        employees; adversely affects the communities in which these 
        defendants operate; and impairs the national economy and 
        interstate commerce;
            (12) the several thousand asbestos-related cancer cases 
        that are filed each year are manageable by the courts and the 
        litigants;
            (13) concerns about statutes of limitations can force 
        claimants who have been exposed to asbestos but who have no 
        current injury to bring premature lawsuits in order to protect 
        against losing their rights to future compensation should they 
        become impaired;
            (14) consolidations, joinder, and similar procedures, to 
        which some courts have resorted in order to deal with the mass 
        of asbestos cases, can undermine the appropriate functioning of 
        the judicial process and encourage the filing of thousands of 
        cases by exposed individuals who are not yet sick and who may 
        never become sick;
            (15) similarly, the availability of sympathetic forums in 
        states with no connection to the plaintiff or to the exposures 
        that form the basis of the lawsuit has encouraged the filing of 
        thousands of cases on behalf of exposed individuals who are not 
        yet sick and may never become sick;
            (16) excessive, unpredictable, and often arbitrary damage 
        awards and unfair allocations of liability jeopardize the 
        financial well-being of many individuals, businesses, and 
        entire industries, particularly the nation's small businesses;
            (17) punitive damage awards unfairly divert the resources 
        of defendants from compensating genuinely impaired claimants 
        and, given the lengthy history of asbestos litigation and the 
        regulatory restrictions on the use of asbestos-containing 
        products in the workplace, the legal justification for such 
        awards--punishment and deterrence--is either inapplicable or 
        inappropriate; and
            (18) the public interest and the interest of interstate 
        commerce requires deferring the claims of exposed individuals 
        who are not sick in order to preserve, now and for the future, 
        defendants' ability to compensate people who develop cancer and 
        other serious asbestos-related injuries and to safeguard the 
        jobs, benefits and savings of American workers and the well-
        being of the national economy.
    (b) Purposes.--It is the purpose of this Act to--
            (1) give priority to those asbestos claimants who can 
        demonstrate actual physical harm or illness caused by exposure 
        to asbestos;
            (2) fully preserve the rights of claimants who were exposed 
        to asbestos to pursue compensation should they become impaired 
        in the future as a result of such exposure;
            (3) enhance the ability of the State and Federal judicial 
        systems to supervise and control asbestos litigation and 
        asbestos-related bankruptcy proceedings; and
            (4) conserve the scarce resources of the defendants, and 
        marshal assets in bankruptcy, to allow compensation of cancer 
        victims and others who are physically impaired by exposure to 
        asbestos while securing the right to similar compensation for 
        those who may suffer physical impairment in the future.

SEC. 3. PHYSICAL IMPAIRMENT.

    (a) Impairment Essential Element of Claim.--Physical impairment of 
the exposed person, to which asbestos exposure was a substantial 
contributing factor, shall be an essential element of an asbestos 
claim.
    (b) Prima Facie Evidence of Physical Impairment for Nonmalignant 
Asbestos Claims.--No person shall bring or maintain a civil action 
alleging a nonmalignant asbestos claim in the absence of a prima facie 
showing of physical impairment as a result of a medical condition to 
which exposure to asbestos was a substantial contributing factor. Such 
a prima facie showing shall include all of the following minimum 
requirements:
            (1) Evidence verifying that a qualified physician has taken 
        a detailed occupational and exposure history of the exposed 
        person or, if such person is deceased, from the person who is 
        the most knowledgeable about the exposures that form the basis 
        of the nonmalignant asbestos claim, including--
                    (A) all of the exposed person's principal places of 
                employment and exposures to airborne contaminants; and
                    (B) whether each place of employment involved 
                exposures to airborne contaminants (including but not 
                limited to asbestos fibers or other disease causing 
                dusts) that can cause pulmonary impairment and the 
                nature, duration and level of any such exposure.
            (2) Evidence verifying that a qualified physician has taken 
        detailed medical and smoking history, including a thorough 
        review of the exposed person's past and present medical 
        problems, and their most probable cause.
            (3) A determination by a qualified physician, on the basis 
        of a medical examination and pulmonary function testing, that 
        the exposed person has a permanent respiratory impairment 
        rating of at least Class 2 as defined by and evaluated pursuant 
        to the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment.
            (4) A diagnosis by a qualified physician of asbestosis or 
        diffuse pleural thickening, based at a minimum on radiological 
        or pathological evidence of asbestosis or radiological evidence 
        of diffuse pleural thickening.
            (5) A determination by a qualified physician that 
        asbestosis or diffuse pleural thickening (rather than solely 
        chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a substantial 
        contributing factor to the exposed person's physical 
        impairment, based at a minimum on a determination that the 
        exposed person has--
                    (A) total lung capacity, by plethysmography or 
                timed gas dilution, below the predicted lower limit of 
                normal;
                    (B) forced vital capacity below the lower limit of 
                normal and a ratio of FEV1 to FVC that is equal to or 
                greater than the predicted lower limit of normal; or
                    (C) a chest x-ray showing small, irregular 
                opacities (s,t) graded by a certified B-reader at least 
                2/1 on the ILO scale.
    (c) Prima Facie Evidence of Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer.--No 
person shall bring or maintain a civil action alleging an asbestos 
claim which is based upon lung cancer, in the absence of a prima facie 
showing which shall include the following minimum requirements:
            (1) Diagnosis by a Board-certified pathologist, pulmonary 
        specialist, or oncologist of a primary lung cancer and that 
        exposure to asbestos was a substantial contributing factor to 
        the condition.
            (2) Evidence sufficient to demonstrate that at least 10 
        years have elapsed between the date of first exposure to 
        asbestos and the date of diagnosis of the lung cancer.
            (3) Depending on whether the exposed person has a history 
        of smoking, the requirements of either (A) or (B) below--
                    (A) in the case of an exposed person who is a 
                nonsmoker, either--
                            (i) radiological or pathological evidence 
                        of asbestosis or radiological evidence of 
                        diffuse pleural thickening; or
                            (ii) evidence of occupational exposure to 
                        asbestos for the following minimum exposure 
                        periods in the specified occupations:
                                    (I) 5 exposure years for 
                                insulators, shipyard workers, workers 
                                in manufacturing plants handling raw 
                                asbestos, boilermakers, shipfitters, 
                                steamfitters, or other trades 
                                performing similar functions;
                                    (II) 10 exposure years for utility 
                                and power house workers, secondary 
                                manufacturing workers, or other trades 
                                performing similar functions; or
                                    (III) 15 exposure years for general 
                                construction, maintenance workers, 
                                chemical and refinery workers, marine 
                                engine room personnel and other 
                                personnel on vessels, stationary 
                                engineers and firemen, railroad engine 
                                repair workers, or other trades perform 
                                in similar functions;
                    (B) in the case of an exposed person who is a 
                smoker, the criteria contained in both (A)(i) and 
                (A)(ii) must be met.
    (d) Prima Facie Evidence of Asbestos-Related Other Cancer.--No 
person shall bring or maintain a civil action alleging an asbestos 
claim which is based upon cancer of the colon, rectum, larynx, pharynx, 
esophagus, or stomach, in the absence of a prima facie showing which 
shall include the following minimum requirements:
            (1) A diagnosis by a Board-certified pathologist, Board-
        certified pulmonary specialist, or Board-certified oncologist 
        (as appropriate for the type of cancer claimed) of primary 
        cancer of the colon, rectum, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, or 
        stomach, and that exposure to asbestos was a substantial 
        contributing factor to the condition.
            (2) Evidence sufficient to demonstrate that at least 10 
        years have elapsed between the date of first exposure to 
        asbestos and the date of diagnosis of the cancer.
            (3) The requirements of either (A) or (B) below--
                    (A) radiological or pathological evidence of 
                asbestosis or radiological evidence of diffuse pleural 
                thickening;
                    (B) evidence of occupational exposure to asbestos 
                for the following minimum exposure periods in the 
                specified occupations:
                            (i) 5 exposure years for insulators, 
                        shipyard workers, workers in manufacturing 
                        plants handling raw asbestos, boilermakers, 
                        shipfitters, steamfitters, or other trades 
                        performing similar functions;
                            (ii) 10 exposure years for utility and 
                        power house workers, secondary manufacturing 
                        workers, or other trades performing similar 
                        functions; or
                            (iii) 15 exposure years for general 
                        construction, maintenance workers, chemical and 
                        refinery workers, marine engine room personnel 
                        and other personnel on vessels, stationary 
                        engineers and firemen, railroad engine repair 
                        workers, or other trades performing similar 
                        functions.
    (e) No Prima Facie Requirement for Mesothelioma.--In a civil action 
alleging an asbestos claim based upon mesothelioma, no prima facie 
showing is required.
    (f) Compliance With Technical Standards.--Evidence relating to 

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