Mesothelioma, the cancer associated with exposure to asbestos, is a terrifying illness. It grows in a thin outer layer of tissue surrounding many of the body’s internal organs. It spreads slowly. It’s hard to detect.
By the time victims notice symptoms, the sneaky malignancy can spread throughout multiple parts of the body. But, thanks to the United States’ robust court system, victims have at least had recourse in the form of class action lawsuits against the corporations that hid this deadly threat — until now.
In a perverted turn from traditional conservative values, including personal liberty and privacy, Republican lawmakers passed a series of bills this week that, in effect, serve to out and embarrass people seeking legal recourse for their potentially fatal illnesses caused by the greed of corporate America.
House Republicans overwhelmingly voted this week to curb the rights of plaintiffs in class action lawsuits, The Hill reported Thursday:
“Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) argued the overriding purpose of the bill is to make it virtually impossible for class-action lawsuits to be brought by groups of people who have been injured by a consumer rip-off, pharmaceutical drug mistake, faulty product design, sex discrimination or sexual harassment in the workplace, or lead and asbestos poisoning.”
One bill specifically targets asbestos victims. The Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act basically makes public the trusts that manage Asbestos claim settlements, exposing the personal information of all members of the class action lawsuits that led to the settlements.
Democrats did their best to call b.s. on this attempt to intimidate people who have already been lied to by employers who exposed them to asbestos, then suffered rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Maryland Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin boiled the bill down to its essence:
“I oppose this misguided legislations because it sends another huge valentine and wet kiss to large corporate polluters and tortfeasors, but gives the finger to millions of American citizens who suffer injuries from these defendants.”
Leave it up to Republicans to just doublespeak any political debate into the netherworld. In a bizarre ode to government surveillance and welfare state hand-holding, Texas Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold claimed that asbestos victims need other people — namely Republican lawmakers — to watch how they spend their settlement money (let’s hope his Texan constituents find out he said this).
“There are finite resources in these trusts and we owe it to our service members and to future victims of asbestosis or mesothelioma to make sure there is money there to take care of the medical bills and compensate them for their injuries,” Farenthold said, per The Hill.
Attacking the rights of plaintiffs is nothing new for Republicans, who have long served as caretakers for the Chamber of Commerce. The litigation-obsessed Chamber has a propensity to stop at nothing when it comes to protecting corporations from the individuals they maim and sicken. The organization infamously fomented a hate and misinformation campaign in the 1990s against Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old New Mexico woman whose McDonalds coffee was so excessively hot — nearly boiling temperature — that she needed skin grafts to restore her pelvic region.
If it were up to corporate profit-loving Republicans like Mr. Farenthold, corporate fast food coffee could be heated to 1,000 scalding degrees, asbestos could be delivered with packing peanuts and there would be nothing — absolutely nothing — any of us could do to stop or punish the perpetrators. This week’s activity should serve as a stark reminder that this Republican Congress is beholden to nothing more than pocketbooks.