Washington–Opponents of the proposed asbestos claims trust fundlegislation said that a majority of the public opposes such ameasure, according to a survey conducted on their behalf.

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The poll, taken by Mercury Public Affairs and Fleishman-Hillardon behalf of the Coalition for Asbestos Reform (C.A.R.), foundroughly two-thirds of Americans prefer to reform the asbestoslitigation system by requiring plaintiffs to meet specific medicalcriteria over the proposed no-fault trust fund approach.

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Additionally, the survey revealed little difference in thesupport for the asbestos trust approach contained in Senate Bill852 currently awaiting action on the Senate floor, and the currentcivil litigation system.

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"This survey makes it very clear what most advocates of asbestosreform have known all along–S. 852 is the wrong solution for thisproblem," said Thomas O'Brien, chairman of C.A.R.

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"Americans know a bad deal when they see it and S. 852–which hasbeen advanced by a handful of companies for their ownbenefit–threatens to bankrupt many smaller companies and willresult in more delays in providing medical care and compensation tovictims of asbestos poisoning," Mr. O'Brien said.

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C.A.R. said that support for the asbestos trust approachplummeted further when survey respondents were told of the detailsof S. 852, which the group said includes a new $140 billion tax onbusinesses, increased government bureaucracy, a shifting offinancial responsibility to small businesses, the threat of closingsmall businesses, billions in fees for trial lawyers and increasedgovernment borrowing.

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The concerns of the public, the group said, echo those expressedby some senators in comments filed with the Senate JudiciaryCommittee's report on the bill.

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"It is now clear that both the general public and certainsenators recognize S. 852 will not achieve the goals of asbestoslitigation reform: providing meaningful support for the victims ofasbestos exposure and finality to the businesses affected bylitigation," said Mr. O'Brien.

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The C.A.R., which claims to be a "group of small andmedium-sized businesses and major insurance companies, committed toeducating U.S. businesses and policymakers about the serious flawsin S. 852," announced last month that it had hiredFleishman-Hillard and its Mercury Public Affairs affiliate tolaunch a national campaign opposing the asbestos trust fundbill.

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