(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray today voted against a Senate bill that could deny or delay justice for average Americans, including victims of asbestos-related disease. The Class Action Reform bill that passed the Senate today could add years to the time it takes to resolve a case, but time is what asbestos victims do not have.
“This week, the federal government indicted the W.R. Grace Company for knowingly sickening workers and residents in Libby, Montana, where hundreds of people have died from asbestos exposure.
This federal indictment sends a message to companies that they are responsible for their decisions and that human lives are more important than profits. Unfortunately, today, the Senate voted to pass a class action lawsuit bill that sends a very different message.
The bill passed by the Senate today tells victims that it is acceptable for companies to play games with justice and push victims to the bottom of the list.
This bill allows companies to move class action lawsuits from state to federal jurisdiction. If class action lawsuits are dumped onto federal courts, they will fall to the bottom of the priority list. With federal courts already facing backlogs, this move could delay justice for years. That’s one of the reasons why the federal bench opposed this bill.
Unfortunately, asbestos victims - like those from Libby and those who worked at the naval shipyards in Bremerton, WA - don’t have time on their side. If companies know they can play legal games, they can just “wait it out.” When that happens, there is no justice.
Companies could also wait until a victim’s medical bills or lost wages are so high that the victim is forced into an unfair settlement.
We need to do more to protect asbestos victims and prevent future deaths, but we should also ensure that they have a fair day in court.
Under the bill passed by the Senate today, anyone – not just asbestos victims - with a class action lawsuit could find themselves pushed into federal court at the bottom of the list.
Congress should not be in the business of delaying or denying justice for any victim. I will continue to work to ensure that the scales of justice do not tip against average Americans.”