We commented recently on the perils of bad publicity and how press reports highlighting Beaumont’s reputation as a plaintiff-friendly forum tend to scare away prospective employers, leading to fewer job opportunities for our citizens, a weaker local economy, and a smaller local tax base.
There is one positive aspect to our negative notoriety, however. Eventually, it’s going to reach a critical mass and Beaumontians are going to get angry enough to do something about it.
The Wall Street Journal article that we cited in our commentary focused on the rise in claims against asbestos trust funds and increasing concern that fraudulent claimants will deplete resources meant for genuine victims. As an example of someone possibly gaming the system, the Journal pointed to Beaumont native son Brent “Double Dip” Coon, whose quoted comments are perfect examples of the situational-ethics mindset.
The article is having reverberations, locally and nationally.
Last Wednesday in Washington DC, the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law met to entertain comments on Resolution 982, the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2013. If enacted, the bill would require alleged victims of asbestos exposure to divulge claims made against asbestos bankruptcy trusts prior to seeking recovery in the tort system.
Chairman Spencer Bachus referenced the Journal article, which notes that nearly half of asbestos trusts have reduced payments to victims at least once in the last two years, in part to preserve assets for future victims.
“The enemy of any just compensation system is fraud and abuse,” Bachus asserted. “Fraud and abuse take money away from real victims who desperately need help. This is an especially important issue with regard to the asbestos trust funds, which still face huge future claims and where every penny counts.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if Beaumont were known as the place that stood up for the genuine victims of asbestos exposure, instead of a place where fraud could have cheated them?