On May 14, the US House Judiciary Committee “marked up” both priority bills for the US Chamber of Commerce.
The first, the “FACT Act,” is an anti-victim asbestos bill designed to protect wrongdoers. It would force asbestos trusts, settlement vehicles used for claims for which companies have conceded liability, to disclose victims’ personal information online, leaving victims vulnerable to identity thieves, con artists and criminals, who will scour these sites for information. This is the very type of information the Federal Trade Commission advises people to never publicly disclose in order to keep their identities safe. Yet the bill has no disclosure requirements for asbestos companies, which continue to conceal information about their products. Asbestos has not been banned in the US and companies still refuse to make public where asbestos is present, where it was used and where it is imported. They still insist on complete confidentiality when settling lawsuits. Why the double standard?
The second bill is “LARA” – the “Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act,” which would amend Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 11 provides judges with authority to sanction attorneys for filing frivolous “claims, defenses, and other legal contentions.” It would remove judges’ authority and a 21-day “safe harbor” provision that allows attorneys to correct mistaken pleadings, claims or contentions without fear of sanctions. It would reinstate a rule that was rescinded over 20 years ago because it was so unworkable. LARA is opposed by such groups as the Judicial Conference of the United States and the American Bar Association.