NAM Encouraged By Seemingly Anti-Business Asbestos Court Decision

By John S. McClenahen This week's much-anticipated U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Norfolk & Western Railway Co. v. Ayers (No. 01-963), an asbestos liability case, seems solidly to have gone against business. The court said six railway workers who had developed asbestiosis could sue for damages under the Federal Employers' Liability Act because they feared developing cancer. However, in her majority opinion Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg reiterated the Supreme Court's position that the "elephantine mass of asbestos cases . . . defies customary judicial administration and calls for national legislation." And that encourages Jan Amundson, general counsel for the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). "With the high court again calling for legislation, and the ABA [American Bar Association] recently endorsing 'medical criteria,' there appears to be a growing momentum for Congress to act," she says. "If we're to avoid a $200 billion to $300 billion economic catastrophe and the bankruptcies and job loss that will be a part of it, federal legislation is the only solution." Two asbestos liability reform bills are pending in Congress: H.R. 1114, sponsored by Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, R-Ill., and S. 413, sponsored by Sen. Don Nickels, R-Okla.

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