Senators reject bill to take asbestos cases out of courts


WASHINGTON -- The Senate yesterday rejected a new plan to compensate asbestos victims, apparently dooming a proposed $140 billion fund to handle claims that are now battled out in the courts.

Under the legislation, asbestos makers and their insurers would have contributed to a trust fund that would pay claims for illnesses in amounts between $25,000 and $1.1 million. But the measure faced attacks on several fronts.

Trial lawyers and their Democratic allies argued that efforts to take claims away from the courts threatened the ability of victims to get sufficient restitution. Fiscal conservatives feared that the approach would set up a new federal entitlement program with insufficient limits on compensation.

The final vote was 58-41, with advocates of the asbestos legislation failing to get the crucial 60 votes they needed to beat back a procedural challenge. Proponents of the bill - who initially garnered 59 votes - said they might try again.

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