If you read the last article we posted about asbestos trust funds, you’ll remember the clever hammock analogy used to describe what they are. If you didn’t read it, you can do so here.
Now, the Government Accountability Office (GOA) – a sort of congressional watchdog group that keeps an eye on government spending of taxpayer dollars – has published a report that reveals the somewhat secretive system of asbestos trust fund payouts.
The report looked at 52 asbestos trust funds that have paid out over 3,000,000 claims for a total of about $17.5 billion. The investigation was prompted by the fact that these asbestos trust funds don’t publish details about their activities, yet do make general information available. Attorneys representing asbestos companies or defendants — in asbestos lawsuits filed by mesothelioma victims – raised a stink about the secrecy of the details and implored congress to get involved. The investigation proceeded to determine if, in fact, these asbestos trust funds were keeping details secret.
The investigation revealed only “one trust’s financial report contained claimant names and amounts paid to these individuals.”
The defendants in asbestos lawsuits have been the critics of asbestos trust fund secrecy. They allege that asbestos lawyers and mesothelioma law firms oversee the operation of these asbestos trust funds to prevent them from revealing how much their clients have been paid. This, they further allege, allows some asbestos attorneys to file claims with multiple trusts that could contradict each other.
The GAO report stated that 98% of asbestos trust fund claims go through what is called an expedited review process, which requires a claim form and some documentation that asbestos exposure happened. Perhaps the lawyers representing the asbestos companies want mesothelioma victims to have to go through much more than that to get the compensation they deserve?
According to the report, 65 percent of asbestos trust funds treat claims information as confidential and privileged. Defendants and insurers want the details to be available to them so they can reduce the value of the claims awarded to mesothelioma victims in court.
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with mesothelioma and suspect it’s due to asbestos exposure, contact a mesothelioma attorney at Sokolove Law for a free consultation. Also, write to your local congressman about keeping the details of asbestos trust fund settlements confidential and out of the hands of the asbestos companies.