AAI Encouraged Senate Judiciary Committee May Examine Asbestos Issue

August 6, 2002

Following comments by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) at last week’s U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on class action reform, the Alliance of American Insurers said it was encouraged that the Senate may consider the asbestos issue when it returns from the August recess.

“Sen. Leahy expressed hope of finding common ground with his Republican colleagues on asbestos litigation reform,” Kenneth Schloman, Washington counsel for the Alliance, remarked. “Most legislators acknowledge that there’s a problem, the difficulty lies in finding a consensus solution. The Senator’s remarks are very encouraging.

“We’ve seen legislation on this issue proposed in past congressional sessions. However, it is all the more important now since the volume of asbestos-related litigation is spiraling out of control. A full congressional inquiry is a necessary prelude to creating sound public policy that can protect asbestos victims without unfairly forcing more companies into bankruptcy.

“Both the impact on the individual companies—many of which have sought the protection of the bankruptcy courts—and the recent reserve strengthening by a number of insurers indicate the enormous drain that asbestos litigation is placing on our economy. Asbestos litigation is a serious national problem that is harming the economy and clogging our court system. The time for action is sooner rather than later.”

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