Summary: H.R.2482 — 98th Congress (1983-1984)All Information (Except Text)

There is one summary for H.R.2482. Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Introduced in House (04/12/1983)

Toxic Victim Compensation Act - Title I: Establishment of New Cause of Action for Victims of Hazardous Substances - Makes the following persons liable for damages for specified injuries, illnesses, deaths, or losses caused by a release of a hazardous substance: (1) the owner and operator of a vessel or facility from which a hazardous substance is released; (2) a person who owned or operated a facility at which a hazardous substance was disposed and from which a hazardous substance is released when such person no longer owns or operates such facility; (3) any person who arranges for disposal or treatment, or transportation for disposal or treatment, of any hazardous substance at a facility owned by another person from which such a release occurs; and (4) any person who accepts a hazardous substance for transport to a site, selected by such person, from which such a release occurs. Includes as compensable damages: (1) the loss of use of real or personal property or natural resources without regard to ownership; and (2) any direct or indirect loss of revenue by the Federal Government or any State or local government.

Exempts a defendant from such liability if he or she can establish by a preponderance of the evidence that: (1) the release of the hazardous substance was caused by an act of God, an act of War, or an act or omission of a third party who is not an agent, employee, or contractor of the defendant; (2) the defendant exercised due care with respect to the hazardous substance; or (3) the defendant took reasonable precautions against foreseeable acts of any third party and foreseeable consequences of such acts. Declares that no persons shall become exempt from liability by transferring such liability to any other person.

Allows a trier of fact, in any action for damages under this Act, to find the defendant liable for punitive damages in addition to any compensatory damages, if such trier finds the conduct of the defendant demonstrated a gross and wanton disregard for public safety.

Declares that this Act shall apply to any Federal agency to the same extent as it applies to any person.

Provides that the plaintiff will have established a presumption that the defendant caused or significantly contributed to the injury, illness, or damage suffered by the plaintiff upon showing sufficient evidence that: (1) the plaintiff was exposed to a hazardous substance found in a discharge, release, or disposal caused or contributed to by the defendant; (2) the plaintiff's exposure to such substance would likely cause or significantly contribute to the injury, illness, or damage. Makes it the burden of the defendant to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she did not cause or significantly contribute to the plaintiff's injury or illness.

Sets forth the kinds of evidence which shall be considered relevant to the issue of causation of injury, illness, or damage. Designates as questions for the trier of fact the degree of culpability of, and the recovery amount due from, each defendant shown to be liable. Prohibits the commencement of any action for damages under this Act after the end of a three-year period beginning on the date the injury, illness, or damage was first known, or should reasonably have been known, to exist.

Grants jurisdiction for such an action to any State court of competent jurisdiction or any Federal district court for the district in which either the plaintiff or the defendant resides, regardless of the amount in controversy. Requires an action brought against a Federal agency to be brought in a Federal district court.

Prohibits any person from being denied benefits under a State's workers compensation plan for illness or injury due to a release of a hazardous substance because the person filed a claim in an untimely manner if the person filed within the period provided for filing an action for damages under this Act, regardless of whether the person's employer was responsible for such injury or illness.

Declares that the presumption of cause, provided for actions for damages under this Act, shall constitute State law in any administrative or judicial proceeding under a State's workers compensation law.

Title II: Department of Health and Human Services - Directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services, through the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, to: (1) establish procedures for physician reports of cases of injury, illness, and death suspected to have resulted from hazardous substances; (2) compile data on such cases; and (3) initiate or request from other agencies support and research concerning health problems related to hazardous substances.

Directs the Secretary to study and investigate whether hazardous substances have been released in specified cases, whether such release has created potential for damage, and what will be the probable extent of such damage.

Directs the Secretary to: (1) publish in the Federal Register any tentative finding that the release of a hazardous substance has created the potential for injury, illness, or property damage; (2) invite and evaluate public comments concerning such finding; and (3) conduct further studies or investigations; or (4) publish his or her final determination of the risk of injury, illness, or damage created by the release. Permits a person adversely affected by the Secretary's final determination, to file a petition for judicial review of such determination within 60 days after it its publication in the Federal Register. Provides that such a determination shall be conclusive in any legal or administrative proceeding if no petition is filed within such period.

Title III: Toxic Victims Compensation Board - Establishes a Toxic Victims Compensation Board, as an independent office within the Department of Health and Human Services, which shall: (1) accept applications from persons claiming to be victims of illness, injury, or property damage caused by a release of a hazardous substance; (2) certify claimants as victims upon determining that such a release caused such injury, illness, or property damage; and (3) award specified benefits to such victims for their losses. Disqualifies from entitlement to such benefits any person who intentionally causes injury or illness to himself, herself, or another person. Specifies time limits for filing application with the Board. Sets forth the procedure for certification of a victim by the Board. Grants the Board subpoena powers. Requires any person filing for certification as a victim to also file a claim for benefits, simultaneously. Permits a victim to file a supplemental claim for benefits for losses suffered after the application date. Provides for the payment of a benefit award to a person other than the victim if necessary: (1) to secure payment for alimony, maintenance, or child support; or (2) to satisfy a claim for medical benefits or reasonable attorney's fees as verified by the Board.

Subrogates the Board to the rights of any victim for the full amount of such benefit payments. Grants the Board a lien in such amount upon any amount recovered by such victim in a civil action for damages under title I of this Act. Allows the Board to exercise the right of such victim to commence such an action if such victim declines to do so.

Provides for the judicial review of a determination by the Board.

Requires the Board to submit to the President and Congress an annual report, analyzing: (1) the operation of its duties; (2) the regulations it issued; and (3) the victims certified and benefits awarded.

Title IV: Fund for Compensation of Victims of Toxic Exposure - Establishes in the Treasury a trust fund to be known as the Toxic Victims Trust Fund (TVC Fund). Requires any amounts obtained by the Toxic Victims Compensation Board as a reimbursement for benefits paid to be deposited into such Fund. Requires the transfer of moneys from the Hazardous Response Trust Fund to cover any victim benefit payment for which there are insufficient moneys in the TCV Fund.

Authorizes the appropriation to the Secretary of the Treasury of such amounts as may be necessary for loans to the TCV Fund to pay benefits exceeding amounts available in the TCV Fund and in the Hazardous Substance Response Trust Fund.

Makes a conforming amendment to the Hazardous Substance Response Revenue Act of 1980.