In 2005, the U.S. Congress voted on a bill that proposed banning all lawsuits throughout the country related to injuries caused from asbestos exposure. Although the plaintiffs’ firms were able to successfully defeat the last legislative effort to eliminate asbestos-related lawsuits, the trend of government intervention still continues.
Attorney John Deaton participated in defeating this attempted corporate bailout of asbestos companies. He brought mesothelioma victims to Washington, D.C. and met with U.S. senators and their legal advisers. He was astonished by the misunderstanding and misinformation throughout the U.S. Senate.
For example, a Rhode Island senator was informed by corporate lobbyists that veterans of the U.S. military were not allowed to file lawsuits or claims based on their exposure from their military service. He planned to vote to ban asbestos lawsuits and create a super trust fund so that veterans would have an opportunity to make a claim against the trust fund. Attorney Deaton pointed out to the senator that within that senator’s home state, 75% of all the asbestos lawsuits filed or pending actually involved exposure from military service (predominately asbestos exposure from the U.S. naval ships and shipyards).
Attorney Deaton informed this senior senator that although a veteran or service member cannot sue the U.S. government or the U.S. Navy, he is, in fact, allowed to sue the manufacturers who supplied the equipment and asbestos aboard the naval ships (turbines, boilers, pumps, gaskets, generators, air compressors, valves, steam lines, lagging, insulation, etc.). Once this U.S. senator understood the misinformation spread by lobbyists, he appropriately voted against the bill. It should be noted that this one senatorial vote was extremely significant, considering that the bailout legislation failed by a single vote.