AB 597 – Asbestos Industry Bill to Delay and Deny Asbestos Victims Their Right to Fair Compensation

Your help is needed to stop this bill.

The California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California, and the Sacramento Central Labor Council are just some of the groups concerned about a very bad bill, AB 597, by Assembly Member Ken Cooley (Dem AD-8 Rancho Cordova). The original bill as well as the two amended versions are unfavorable to persons harmed by asbestos.

Get the AB 597 Fact Sheet

AB 597 victimizes twice those who become ill with an asbestos-related disease. It devastates their families because the bill blocks the ability to recover fair compensation. Mesothelioma is a disease caused only by asbestos. Its victims typically die within a year of their diagnosis.

Who is impacted by this legislation?

Construction and other tradesmen and women, maintenance workers, mechanics, etc., in refineries, power plants, schools, and in buildings during demolition or remodeling, etc., continue to be at risk for asbestos-related diseases.  Although Cal/OSHA has regulations requiring protection for exposed workers, one of the most difficult regulations to enforce effectively relates to monitoring for airborne hazards such as asbestos.  As well, many workers, particularly low wage immigrant workers who may work for unscrupulous contractors, continue to be exposed to asbestos.

Veterans are impacted. Vets are 30% of all mesothelioma patients. Mesothelioma is caused only by asbestos. There are 25 million US vets. Although they represent just 8% of our population, they are an astonishing 30% of all known mesothelioma deaths. California ranks first in the country overall for mesothelioma and asbestos related deaths and is alone home to almost 2 million vets. These vets were often exposed while actively serving our country. Requiring every plaintiff to file against every trust – even if the plaintiff doesn’t want to do so – ultimately reduces the amount of funds in the trust that a veteran might seek. Veterans deserve justice because they have fought for all of us.

If you are a veteran, send this veteran model letter to Assembly Member Cooley.

Who is behind AB 597?  

AB 597, sponsored by the Civil Justice Association of California (CJAC), a group that defends corporations, is based on model legislation promoted nationwide by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is the corporate-funded organization of conservative state legislators and private sector representatives that advances free-market enterprise, limited government, and federalism. It focuses on stripping consumers and workers of their rights in order to maximize profits for corporate members.

How does the bill hurt those who have been harmed by asbestos?

When workers and veterans and others are ill and dying from exposures to asbestos, they may sue in state court the product manufacturers, premises owners, and others who knew since the 1930’s about the dangers of asbestos but failed to warn or provide protection from this deadly toxin.  Many of these companies have set up trust funds (after special bankruptcy court proceedings) to process asbestos claims.  Those companies admitted their liability and asked a bankruptcy court to allow them to set aside funds to pay for the harm their asbestos caused while at the same time protecting their total assets. Most of the funds, however, pay pennies on the dollar.

This bill is designed to force asbestos victims to jump through expensive and time-consuming legal hoops before they can even prepare their main case. Delay is the point of this bill — delay which assures that those most ill will die before their case reaches judgment.

Because mesothelioma victims die soon after diagnosis, they are often eligible for a speedy civil trial in California.  But a speedy trial means nothing if the victim is unable to prepare for court due to delays required by AB 597 — which forces the victim to prepare every possible asbestos trust claim — there are over 60 possible trusts and victims may be eligible for a relatively small number of these.  Nevertheless, AB 597 will require the victim to submit statements under penalty of perjury that each asbestos trust has been evaluated for a potential claim — a time consuming process.  Under the current law, victims are deposed by the defendants and required to answer where they worked and identify products with which they worked, among other things.  That information allows the defendants to match the victim’s work history with public information posted by the asbestos trusts as to where the trust’s asbestos was located. Thus the defendants already have the information sought in part of AB 597.  But delay is the goal and delaying the trial date — and the impending trial date is usually what compels the victim and the wrongdoer to reach a settlement — often means death before the court judgement.

So for the most ill victims, for those who are dying, justice delayed is justice denied.  In California, unlike many other jurisdictions, if the person bringing a lawsuit for injuries dies before the case is complete, there is no recovery for the pain and suffering the victim endured.  The victim’s family receives far less in compensation.  And the corporate bad actors who poisoned the victim are shielded from full accountability and receive a windfall by the delays AB 597 creates.

Your help is needed

Your help is needed to stop this bill. Below are three letters you may send to Assembly Member Ken Cooley, the bill author, to oppose AB 597.

  • This individual model letter can be used by any individual – and if you are from Mr. Cooley’s District, you can let him know.
  • If you are a veteran, you can send this veteran model letter to Assembly Member Cooley.
  • Use this organizational model letter if you represent an organization. This letter is addressed to the Assembly Member Mark Stone, Chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee and if you send it there, your organization will be listed as In Opposition to AB 597.  Assembly Member Stone’s Judiciary Committee staff should receive copies of your letter as well.

Please also share with us a copy of any letter you submit so we can alert you as to what is happening with this legislation. Email your letter to us.

Keep up with what is happening regarding AB 597

The bill will be heard in the Assembly Judiciary Committee on a date to be determined. In order to make sure you have the most recent version of any bill, you can sign up for alerts on the web. Enter the bill number you wish to track (and indicate whether it is an Assembly Bill (AB) or a Senate Bill (SB)). Subscribe by clicking on the button near the bottom of the page and providing your email address. You may download or print various versions of the Bill and other information about the Bill, such as the analyses and votes.

Organizations Opposing AB 597

Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization
California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform
California Alliance for Retired Americans
California Conference of the Amalgamated Transit Union
California Conference of Machinists
California Employment Lawyers Association
California Labor Federation AFL-CIO
California Professional Firefighters
California Teamsters Public Affairs Council
Congress of California Seniors
Consumer Attorneys of California
Consumer Federation of California
Engineers & Scientists of California IFPTE Local 20
IFPTE Local 21
International Longshore and Warehouse Union
Jockey’s Guild
Labor + Employment Committee of the National Lawyers Guild
Sacramento Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO
State Building & Construction Trades Council of California
Utility Workers Union of America Local 132
Veterans Caucus of the California Democratic Party

Local Organizations and Leaders Opposing AB 597

Lawson Stuart, Chair, Veterans Caucus of the California Democratic Party
The Democratic Party of Sacramento County
Green Democratic Club of Sacramento County
John F. Kennedy Democratic Club
Latino Democratic Club of Sacramento County
Region 3 Democrats, California Democratic Party
Town & Country Democratic Club
Veterans Democratic Club of Sacramento County
Wellstone Progressive Democrats of Sacramento

Contact for more information

  • Fran Schreiberg  (510) 302-1071 or fschreiberg@kazanlaw.com
  • Lea-Ann Tratten or Jacquie Serna  (916) 442-6902


Updated:  4/14/2015