Privacy VS Double-Dipping: FACT Act Up for Debate in House

This week the House of Representatives will debate and put up for a vote a bill designed to curtail on-going fraud in asbestos trusts. The Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act (H.R. 982) – or, more colloquially, the FACT Act – aims to prevent asbestos victims and their legal teams from filing multiple claims for a single injury through regular financial reporting from the asbestos trusts.

Supporters of the FACT Act find the bill necessary as greed and unethical practices on the behalf of asbestos victims continue to grow. If passed, the FACT Act requires the sixty asbestos trusts to file quarterly financial reports on the status of on-going claims and claims that have been settled. By mandating this information to be public, supporters of the FACT Act hope to curb claimants from filing multiple claims for one injury.

However, opponents of the FACT Act – mainly non-profits and advocates for asbestos victims – are concerned over the gross violations of privacy. Essentially, as the asbestos trusts report on their financial dealings and payouts, part of the reporting process is to detail who received these payments including personal information on a mandated website. On this website, the last four digits of recipients' Social Security Number will be available as well as financial information. Opponents to the FACT Act are chiefly concerned over the potential for widespread identity theft in the asbestos claimant community.

Asbestos is a highly toxic mineral commonly used in building supplies and plumbing material. Found in a variety of materials – from insulation, sheetrock, roofing materials, floor and ceiling tiles – asbestos was used in construction in the twentieth century until the United States banned the mineral after it was discovered that exposure to asbestos caused significant health problems. Mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that can affect the pleura or the delicate lining protecting the lungs, is the most commonly associated and diagnosed medical condition linked to asbestos exposure.

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