The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), which calls itself the largest independent asbestos victims’ organization in the country, is taking a lead in derailing legislation that would require asbestos bankruptcy trust to operate more transparently.
ADAO’s initiatives include not only calling for a worldwide asbestos ban, but also calling for an end to the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act, or the FACT Act, according to its president Linda Reinstein.
On Jan. 26, Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, introduced the latest iteration of this bill, which would require asbestos bankruptcy trusts to file quarterly reports that detail the demands received from claimants seeking compensation due to asbestos exposure.
On Jan. 28, Reinstein sent a letter of opposition to the bill to Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee.
Reinstein wrote in the letter: “The same manufacturing interests who for years hid the dangers of their lethal Asbestos products, are now asking Congress—under the guise of transparency—to impose new time and cost-consuming requirements on the asbestos trusts, grant asbestos defendants new rights to infringe upon victims’ privacy, and operate the trusts in a manner that will unduly burden asbestos victims and their families, without justification.
“I oppose the bill not only because it is both fundamentally unfair and discriminatory toward asbestos cancer victims, but because it is entirely one-sided, and seeks absolutely nothing in the way of increased transparency from the same industry that caused the largest man-made disaster in human history, and covered it up for years.”
On Feb. 6, ADAO also published an “Action Alert” on its website, asking its members to call and urge their Congressional representatives to vote “no” on the FACT Act.
While Reinstein said the group does not make legal referrals, it does accept sponsorship by national asbestos plaintiff firms including Simmons Hanly Conroy of Alton and Motley Rice of Charleston, S.C.
Simmons and Motley Rice are among the “platinum” sponsors of ADAO’s 11th Annual International Asbestos Awareness Conference to be held April 17-19 in Washington, D.C.
“Gold” and “silver” sponsors of the conference include Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett of Dallas and Early, Lucarelli, Sweeney & Meisenkothen of New York.
Reinstein did not respond to questions concerning the exact amounts contributed by the asbestos firms.
Reinstein and Doug Larkin, ADAO’s communication director, founded the nonprofit organization in 2004 after both of their loved ones were diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Their mission, Reinstein said in an e-mail, is to “provide asbestos victims and concerned citizens with a united voice through our education, advocacy and community initiatives. She added that “ADAO seeks to raise public awareness about the dangers of asbestos exposure, advocate for an asbestos ban, and protect asbestos victims’ civil rights.”
Lester Brickman, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York, recently testified at a Congressional hearing on the FACT Act. He said that the ADAO and other advocacy groups take the same position as plaintiff’s lawyers on the bill. He also said that their position on the FACT Act is “just plain hogwash.”
“They make the argument that it’s an intrusion of privacy, because it will make all of this medical information available to everyone in the world,” Brickman said. “But when anyone sues in the tort system, claiming medical injury, they have to disclose all of the facts about the injury and they have to submit to a medical examination by a doctor selected by the defendant.
“So, the information that has to be supplied by a tort plaintiff far exceeds the information that the FACT Act will require to be disclosed.”
Brickman contends that plaintiff’s lawyers and others who oppose the FACT Act are really trying to prevent defendants from accessing trust claim filings and finding out the actual amounts of claimants’ compensation.
Along with advocacy, ADAO works on several education initiatives, including its annual conference, where asbestos experts and victims meet to discuss advancements in disease prevention, advocacy and treatment. ADAO also participates in the American Public Health Association’s Annual Meeting & Exposition and the International Mesothelioma Interest Group Conference.
Additionally, ADAO’s community initiatives include connecting patients and families through social media and providing them with educational materials and resources.
According to ADAO, all of their advocacy, educational and community initiatives are funded by individual donors and sponsors.
Kim Cecchini, ADAO’s senior communications strategist, provided a list of the organization’s 2014 individual donors, which include Emily Bankhead, The Rahe Family, Tom O’Neil Memorial Donations from Family and Friends, The Trafton and Maude Crandall Foundation and The Von St. James Family.
According to ADAO’s most recent 990 tax return form, the organization received $410,513 in contributions and grants in 2013.
The tax return form also shows that ADAO received $344,986 in contributions and grants in 2012, and $257,429 in contributions and grants in 2011.
Originally published in the Madison-St. Clair Record.