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6/17/2003



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

ASLRRA: Legislation proposing a federal asbestos-claim court, payment system won't affect short lines


Last month, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act of 2003 or the FAIR Act (S. 1125), which would establish a special federal court for hearing workers' asbestos claims and a trust fund to pay awards.


The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to mark up the bill June 19, according to American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association's (ASLRRA) bi-weekly newsletter released June 17.


The FAIR Act would create a federal "Court of Asbestos Claims" which would evaluate claims and make awards based on a schedule of benefits ranging from asymptomatic exposure ($0) to mesothelioma ($750,000).


Awards would be paid from an "Asbestos Injury Claims Resolution" trust fund stockpiled by certain parties' settlement, judgment, defense, or indemnity costs, and some insurance carriers' claim payments.


Common-carrier railroad expenditures for asbestos claims brought under Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) would not be treated the same as those for non-railroad companies, ASLRRA said.


Railroads that have prior FELA asbestos expenditures exceeding $5 million would make payments only if their annual revenue exceeds $500 million.


"Since that excludes short line railroads by definition, short lines would enjoy the immunity of the FAIR Act without having to make contributions to the fund," ASLRRA said.


Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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