Articles Posted in Asbestos Claims

Published on:

justice-statue-18-inch-YT-7746.jpgState Court vs. Federal – Weighing the pros and cons.
Typically, whenever possible, asbestos cases are filed in state court. A procedural defense tactic being implemented with increasing frequency is to have the case moved to Federal court.

The Plaintiff determines where the case is to be filed.
In state court, the plaintiff has the potential to recover punitive damages. The case is generally heard more expeditiously. Because plaintiffs’ lawyers choose where to file lawsuits, they have an opportunity to file in states that have particularly favorable legal rules. Approximately 80 percent of asbestos cases are filed in state court.

The right to have the case removed or heard in federal court is the exclusive right of the Defendant or Defendants.
In federal court, all cases filed since 1990 have been assigned to one judge in Philadelphia. This process was established to adjudicate the overwhelming number of asbestos claims. It is now known as the Multi District Litigation (or MDL). Not once has this judge allowed a case to be tried for punitive damages. Cases in federal court typically take much longer to go to trial and can be left inactive for significant periods of time.

The Defendant can move to have the case removed to federal court for several reasons. In asbestos cases, the principal grounds for removal are the Federal Enclave Clause and federal officer removal. The Federal Enclave Clause authorizes Congress to exercise exclusive legislation “over all places purchased by consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards, and other needful things.” Basically, this puts any exposure that occurred at shipyards, military bases and the like under federal jurisdiction.

The federal officer removal statute provides in pertinent part that “[a]ny officer of the United States or agency thereof, or person acting under him, for any act under color of such office . . .” may remove a civil action or criminal proceeding commenced against him in a State Court to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place wherein it is pending. Manufacturers who provided asbestos containing products to federal agencies, such as the military, claim that they were operating as a federal contractor and thus a federal officer was involved in the business.

Plaintiffs can attempt to thwart these efforts by dismissing the defendant who sought to have the case removed and then request the court remand the case. Or, they can stipulate that the plaintiff is only proceeding against the removing defendant on state law claims thus nullifying the basis for federal jurisdiction.

DISTRICT COURT 2.pngRecently, United Technologies Corp. (UTC) succeeded in removing two pending asbestos cases based on the U.S. Codes federal officer removal provision. The Plaintiffs in these cases were exposed at military bases. CBS ‘s predecessor-in-interest, Westinghouse was also successful in both getting and keeping their case in federal court claiming that, because their products were delivered to an agency of the United States Government, they were operating as a federal contractor and thus a federal officer was involved in the business.
Continue reading

Published on:

On April 16, 2000, (Case No. 00-22876 JKF) Pittsburgh Corning Corporation filed a voluntary petition under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Inundated by asbestos claims, the company saw no other means by which to resolve this legal liability. Over 13 years later, Judge Fitzgerald of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania issued a Final Order Confirming the Modified Third Amended Plan of Reorganization. PPG Industries and Corning Inc. are the two companies that own Pittsburgh Corning. Under the final plan proposed for Pittsburgh Corning, PPG Industries would pay about $825 million to the trust through 2023 along with 1.4 million shares of PPG stock or the cash equivalent. Corning Inc. would pay $290 million for the next six years. Their insurers would kick in over $1.7 billion.

amositeasbestospic.jpgPittsburgh Corning developed, manufactured, and supplied building materials on a national and international level. Specifically between 1962 and 1972, the company manufactured a pipe-covering and insulation branded UNIBESTOS. Unibestos Pipe Insulation and Unibestos Insulation were durable, withstood temperatures of 1500 degrees Fahrenheit, were extremely resistant to corrosion, and when the dust they created was inhaled, they were potentially lethal. Both products were composed primarily of thin, long-fibered Amosite asbestos. Amosite is known as one of the more deadly types of asbestos because of its long fiber characteristic that is brittle and breaks easily causing it to be inhaled.

Approximately 400,000 claims were filed against Pittsburgh Corning as a result of exposure to their asbestos containing products. Nearly 200,000 claims were settled before the company filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. The 3.5 billion dollars allotted to the bankruptcy trust is still just out of reach to the over 200,000 victims left uncompensated. The down side of all this is that it will likely take at least one more year before the final confirmation of the plan and for trust to actually begin accepting the claims that will be paid at approximately 37% of the value. Victims will wait even longer for even a small percent of justice.
Continue reading

Published on:

Rear-view-mirror-caption add.jpgWHAT ARE THE REAL FACTS IN THE WORLD OF ASBESTOS CLAIMS AND WHAT IS ILLUSION? Studies indicate that asbestos payments increased 75% in the past year. This is true; however, the data used to make this determination also indicates a substantial change in the claim disease mix. In other words, this increase is not based on a per disease level increase. What has happened is that there are significantly fewer non-malignant claims being resolved and a larger percentage of malignancies, which have a much larger claim value, being paid. The average number of claims resolved reached its peak in 2006 and has steadily declined since. The average number of claims resolved dropped 31% in 2011. A larger percentage of this reduced number is for claimants with mesothelioma and other malignancies. The actual claim payment percentage is typically decreased upon the trust’s periodic review.

A few of the noteworthy reductions in payment percentages

  • Babcock & Wilcox initial payment percentage was 34% current payment percentage is 11.9%
  • C.E. Thurston initial payment percentage was 40% current payment percentage is 25%
  • Lummus initial payment percentage was 100% current payment percentage is 10%
  • National Gypsum (NGC) initial payment percentage was 55.6% current payment percentage is 18%
  • Fibreboard OCFB initial payment percentage was 25% current payment percentage is 9.5%
  • Owens Corning initial payment percentage was 40% current payment percentage is 10%
  • U.S. Gypsum initial payment percentage was 45% current payment percentage is 30%
  • UNR initial payment percentage was 18.6% current payment percentage is 0.8%

Commercials on television and radio highlight that there is $30,000,000,000.00 (30 billion dollars) in the bankruptcy trusts to be disbursed.

Fact: There is actually approximately $18 billion currently in the trust system that is available for payouts. The other approximately $12 billion is designated for trusts still pending confirmation or completion. Claims can NOT be filed with a trust until the process has been completed. Additionally, this inflated; attention grabbing number is much less impressive when you take into account that it must be divided up amongst the estimated 500,000 claimants and the fact that the greater amount of the monies are allocated to claimants with mesothelioma, followed by the lung cancer claimants then other cancers and finally, what usually is any of four (4) non-malignant levels.

Filing claims and the medical and exposure criterion for approval continues to become more and more difficult and the payment percentage has continues to be reduced. As with all statistical data, it is subject to personal interpretation. It takes a review of ALL the data and ALL the facts to be accurately and adequately informed.
Continue reading

Published on:

Travelers_New_.jpgIn what is the latest in a long and convoluted series of lawsuits revolving around Travelers Insurance Co. and its payment of asbestos settlement claims, United States District Court Judge John Koetle for the Southern District of New York ruled that “it was an error to require Travelers to make the settlement payments” and that “the judgment must be reversed.” He wrote that Judge Lifland had incorrectly concluded that settlement lawyers had met all conditions required for Travelers to make payments under the 2004 settlements. This ruling reversed the Bankruptcy Court’s January 20, 2011 final judgment on the December 16, 2010 order granting, inter alia, Statutory Direct Action Settlement Counsel’s motion to compel payment of the StatutoryJM LOGO.jpg Direct Action Settlement Agreement. Simply stated, Travelers Insurance Company, who provided general liability coverage and other insurance between 1947 and 1976 to Johns Manville Corp, is no longer required to pay nearly $500 million towards asbestos settlements; specifically, the claims that center on the asbestos products manufactured by now-bankrupt Johns Manville Corp., one of the largest manufacturers of asbestos products in U.S. history.

The current case is Travelers Indemnity Co v. Statutory and Hawaii Direct Action Settlement Counsel et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, Nos. 11-01312 and 11-01329. The original case pits Travelers against 26 state-court actions that were bundled into three settlements and mediated by former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo between 2002 and 2004. Those settlements were fought by outside parties, including Chubb Indemnity Insurance Co., which said it didn’t want Travelers to be off the hook for future liabilities as a condition of the settlements. In the most recent ruling, the federal judge said that as a result of other court decisions, the Cuomo settlements do not absolve Travelers of future claims from Chubb and other insurers. As a result, Travelers is not required to pay the thousands of people sickened from inhaling microscopic asbestos fibers.

With 500 Million dollars in dispute, it is likely that we have not heard the last of Travelers. But until then, countless victims of asbestos exposure will be denied justice, left without compensation.
Continue reading

Published on:

TRAIN WITH ENGINEER.jpgThe The Supreme Court Decision in KURNS, EXECUTRIX OF THE ESTATE OF CORSON, DECEASED, ET AL. v. RAILROAD FRICTION PRODUCTS CORP. ET AL. handed down on Wednesday, February 29th, 2012 will PUT ON THE BRAKES for railroad workers, who contracted an asbestos related disease, from seeking justice in the courthouse against manufacturers of harmful asbestos containing products. The Supreme Court affirmed the Third Circuit’s holding that the federal Locomotive Inspection Act (“LIA”) preempts plaintiffs’ state tort law claims for design defects and failure to warn.

What is somewhat disconcerting is that the opinion was delivered by Justice Thomas who in the past has defended the state’s rights to regulate against any implied federal preemption. This was not seen as keeping in line with Thomas’ prior stand on federal vs. state preemption. Justice Kagan wrote a concurring opinion. Justice Sotomayor wrote an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, which Justices Breyer and Ginsburg joined.

In spite of the disappointing ruling, railroad workers can still file a lawsuit involving asbestos injury claims under the Federal Employees Liability Act. FELA allows workers to file suit against employers instead of the asbestos manufacturers. Because indemnity claims (claims that the manufacturers are liable) would be state law based, the railroads will possess no indemnity or contribution rights against such entities either. Any attempt by the Railroads to bring the asbestos manufacturers in under the ruling handed down in Ayers will be subject to dismissal, as federally preempted by this decision. Additionally, FELA cases may now take the position that the LIA now provides coverage and rights for locomotives that are “not in use” as previously held by this Court. It has not yet been determined how this will effect claims filed against asbestos manufacturers through the bankruptcy courts.

When a victim of an asbestos related disease such as mesothelioma files a personal injury lawsuit, it will likely allege that the manufacturer of asbestos products knew the dangers associated with the use of the mineral and, without regard for the safety of the end user of the product, continued to manufacture the same. This decision will allow these companies to escape liability in railroad cases.

From the standpoint of workers, this decision exemplifies the value of voting for a President. When casting their ballot, an individual must take into account that one of the most intriguing and important ways in which ordinary workers may be affected by the Office of the President, is through appointments to the Supreme Court.

The Alliance for Justice summarized the situation perfectly:

“By upholding the lower courts’ decisions in favor of the corporate defendants, the Supreme Court is preventing injured citizens from holding railroad manufacturers responsible for violating state safety laws and regulations, many of which speak to local safety hazards and provide more stringent protections than those afforded by federal laws. Once again the Corporate Court has used federal preemption to protect corporate interests and prevent states from protecting public safety.”

Continue reading

Published on:

hourglass.jpgLatency period is the time it takes from the date of initial exposure to asbestos to the date that symptoms of the disease develop or the actual manifestation of the disease. Although expert opinions and calculations vary, it has been typically accepted that the latency period for an asbestos related disease can be anywhere from 10 to 50 years.

For the medical profession this creates a significant problem for early detection. Those who suffer from Mesothelioma and other asbestos related malignancies such as lung cancer, colon cancer, stomach cancer or laryngeal cancer always respond better to treatment when the cancer is detected in the early stages.

For the legal profession the lengthy latency period must be taken into consideration when determining the Statute of Limitations. The time-frame one has to file a case must be calculated from the date the disease presents itself and is diagnosed rather than the actual date of exposure.

Tragedies such as 9/11 have forced the medical profession to consider a significantly shorter latency period as a distinct possibility. Deborah Reeve was the first 9/11 emergency responder to die of mesothelioma. She worked as a paramedic for the Fire Department of New York. Reeve began having symptoms of severe lung disease in early 2003 and was diagnosed with the asbestos-caused cancer in 2004. She succumbed to the disease in March 2006. Doctors agree that her exposure to asbestos was a result of her days spent working at the recovery site. Not only did this bring into question the latency period of an asbestos related condition, but the amount of exposure to asbestos that is considered dangerous. Smaller scale tragedies like the 27-year-old female white-collar worker who was diagnosed in 1998 with mesothelioma only eight and one-half years following first exposure as a bystander to debris in a site in which asbestos-containing building materials were being dismantled and rebuilding work took place are also catching the experts eye.

In addition to the accepted latency period, it is generally required to show a minimum of five years of asbestos expose to confirm an asbestos related disease. Cases such as that of Roger Hammett who was awarded $1.45 million after a jury ruled that his mesothelioma cancer was caused by asbestos exposure from a job that he held 45 years ago has shown that even minimal exposure to asbestos can be fatal. The case revealed something interesting that is not often seen in most mesothelioma cases: Hammett developed mesothelioma after only working 67 days around asbestos.

While the medical and legal professions continue to strive to find an accurate determination of what the latency period for an asbestos related disease and organizations such as OSHA and the EPA continue to perform testing and implement safety regulations based on that information that dictate required safety procedures while handling asbestos, ALL can agree on the following: Annual check-ups and open communication and follow-up with your primary physician are key to maintaining good health and when it comes to safe levels of asbestos exposure… NO EXPOSURE is the best and safest alternative.
Continue reading

Published on:

stop watch.jpgA statute of limitations, as defined by Black’s Law Dictionary, are Statutes of the federal government and various states setting maximum time periods during which certain actions can be brought or rights enforced. After the time period set out in the applicable statute of limitations has run, no legal action can be brought regardless of whether any cause of action ever existed.

There are statutes of limitations in place that pertain to a living injured party and there are statutes that are applicable in the event the injured party is deceased (the wrongful death statute) BEFORE the statute of limitations expires. If the injured party is deceased before the statute of limitation expires, it is ALWAYS the wrongful death statute that is applicable regardless of whether it lengthens or shortens the time period in which an action can be brought.

Usually, in a personal injury case, the statute date can be easily calculated by simply taking the date of the incident (ie: a motor vehicle accident or slip and fall) and applying the relevant time frame allowable by the statute. Because of the latency period of an asbestos related condition, which can be anywhere between 15 and 50 years, the statute of limitations cannot justly be applied from the date of exposure. In an asbestos case, the statute of limitations must be calculated from the date of diagnosis. The applicable time period must be calculated from the date the injured party is conclusively diagnosed with an asbestos related condition. Asbestosis and Pleural Disease are two non-malignant asbestos related diseases. Laryngeal Cancer, Colon Cancer, Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma are malignancies that may also potentially be asbestos related conditions.

Should you be diagnosed with a non-malignant condition, that statute is to be calculated from that date of diagnosis; however, if you are subsequently diagnosed with an asbestos related malignancy, that statute is to be re-calculated from the date of the malignancy. The 2011 Florida statute 774.206 states as follows:

  • Notwithstanding any other law, with respect to any asbestos or silica claim not barred as of the effective date of this act, the limitations period does not begin to run until the exposed person discovers, or through the exercise of reasonable diligence should have discovered, that he or she is physically impaired by an asbestos-related or silica-related condition
  • An asbestos or silica claim arising out of a nonmalignant condition shall be a distinct cause of action from an asbestos or silica claim relating to the same exposed person arising out of asbestos-related or silica-related cancer. Damages may not be awarded for fear or risk of cancer in a civil action asserting an asbestos or silica claim.
  • A settlement of a nonmalignant asbestos or silica claim concluded after the effective date of this act may not require, as a condition of settlement, the release of any future claim for asbestos-related or silica-related cancer.

FLORIDA MAP.jpgAsbestos cases are personal injury claims based on product liability and so the Florida Statue allows four years from the date of diagnosis for the injured party to file a claim / complaint. The wrongful death statute is two years.
Continue reading

Published on:

Smoke_Stock_002_by_#1.jpg Accusations of Fraud in the Asbestos bankruptcy courts are being tossed about. But is there really deliberate deception on the part of the Plaintiffs, or is this just another smokescreen created by the defendants to take the focus off their wrong doing and liability and justify diminishing payments?

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) , there are 60 different trusts, created as companies declared bankruptcy because of asbestos-related liabilities to relieve them of future liabilities. Those trusts have paid out $3 billion to settle 461,000 claims in 2010, compared to $3.6 billion in 2009 and $3.3 billion in 2008. In all, $17.5 billion between 1988 and 2000 has been paid out to settle 3.3 million claims. Just because of the sheer volume, the possibility for fraud exists within the system of trusts set up by bankruptcy courts to deal with asbestos personal injury claims. The GAO report said 98% of trust claims go through an “expedited review” process that requires only a claim form with “documented evidence” of exposure such as work history, invoices, or deposition testimony of plaintiff or coworkers plus a medical report
Claims of fraud seem to be based in two parts: One, that the claimants are providing inconsistent exposure history. Two, that the medical profession has seized an opportunity to capitalize on the situation and has provided false information / documentation.

Exposure History: There are claims that conflicting exposure history has been submitted to different trusts. The universe of claimants consists largely of “blue collar” workers; members of unions who filled the work force of industries such as construction, mechanical, railroad, manufacturing and the like. The unions typically sent workers to jobsites for limited amounts of times depending on the work or project to be completed. They worked at multiple jobsites on multiple projects. Working at two different jobsites (or more) during the same time frame is not conflicting information – It is the way it was. The trusts require that exposure and product identification is verified by sworn affidavits, co-worker affidavits, Social Security earnings reports and or actual paycheck stubs. The latency period for an asbestos related disease is between 15 and 50 years which means the documentation must go back commensurately.

Medical Evidence. Prior investigations have shown how a tiny number of physicians have submitted tens of thousands of diagnoses of asbestos-related disease, many of them subsequently found to be incorrect. But the few “bad apples” that we all know will be found in every bunch have been identified, and the information has most definitely been disseminated. CRMC, VERUS LLC, TRUST ONLINE DELAWARE CLAIMS PROCESSING FACILITY are amongst the largest claims processing facilities and currently handle approximately 30 or more of the bankruptcy Trusts open for filing. They each have a similar posting or notice, easily obtained on the internet, listing UNACCEPTABLE DOCTORS AND FACILITIES.*1 Moreover, the consistency or similarities with which they list the doctors supports the fact that not only is there communications within the trusts handled by the same claims processing facility, but there is indeed communication amongst the processing facilities.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued a press release in mid October calling the asbestos trust system “broken” because of this lack of transparency. “It is becoming clear that rather than acting to prevent abusive claims, the asbestos trusts are effectively encouraging fraud by inhibiting claims information sharing between the trusts and the tort system,” said Lisa Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform.

The GAO said 65% of trusts reviewed treated claims information as confidential under rules that consider information submitted as part of a legal settlement process as privileged. Defendants and insurers say the trusts should be treated as non-adversarial settlement vehicles. They frequently seek information about claims paid so they can set off any court award by the amount the plaintiff has already obtained elsewhere. Clearly the request to make personal medical information publicly available is motivated by the desire to protect the almighty dollar of big business and insurance companies and has a complete disregard for the personal rights of the victims of asbestos exposure.

There is no disputing the fact that there are unscrupulous individuals looking to capitalize on the misfortune of many. But there are strict guidelines and criterion implemented by the trusts to assure the integrity of their system. In short it is the victims of asbestos exposure who suffer the most; adhering to stricter regulations and burdens of proof and being ultimately rewarded with significantly lower dollar amounts.
Continue reading

Published on:

MONEY BAG.png MONEY BAG.png MONEY BAG.png DIMINISHING DOLLARS
for Asbestos Victims
According to the Environmental Working Group Action Fund, 10,000 people a year die from asbestos-caused diseases in the United States, including one out of every 125 American men who die over the age of 50. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has no general ban on the use of asbestos. However, asbestos was one of the first hazardous air pollutants regulated under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act of 1970, and many applications have been forbidden by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The first lawsuits against asbestos manufacturers were brought in 1929. Since then, many lawsuits have been filed. As a result of the litigation, manufacturers sold off subsidiaries, diversified, produced asbestos substitutes, and started asbestos removal businesses.

JOHNS-MANVILLE3291718464_d2cf85713b.jpgThe Manville Corporation, formerly the Johns-Manville Corporation, was one of the first asbestos companies to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. At the time, they were the largest producer of asbestos-containing products. Johns-Manville filed for reorganization and protection (Chapter 11) under the United States Bankruptcy Code in August 1982. At the time, it was the largest company ever to file bankruptcy, and was one of the richest. Manville was then 181st on the Fortune 500, but was the defendant of 16,500 lawsuits related to the health effects of asbestos. Since then approximately 115 additional companies have filed bankruptcies as a result of asbestos related lawsuits. full list prided below *1 Claimants now are now forced to seek relief through the bankruptcy courts. Once these companies set up trusts through the bankruptcy courts, the injured party may seek compensation. But they will likely only receive a small percentage of the actual claim value. Manville reports claim filings for the second quarter 2011 were approximately 9,300 compared to 4,600 for the second quarter 2010. Year to date the Trust has received over 20,800 claims compared to 8,900 claims for the first six months of 2010.

As a result of the extended latency period for asbestos related conditions (the amount of time between exposure and the occurrence of symptoms) which is between 15 and 50 years the number of claims both new and unresolved remain substantial. The ability of the trust to pay, is based on a forecast of anticipated claims and the actual money held by the trust. Based on that data, the trust determines what percentage of the actual claim value it is capable of paying. For the majority of the bankruptcy trusts, the number of actual claims far exceeds the number of anticipated claims and so the percentage of the claim value that is being paid is being drastically reduced every year.

NAT GYP ADVERTISEMENT.jpgNational Gypsum is latest of the bankruptcy trusts to significantly reduce their payment percentage. Plaintiff’s / Claimant’s counsel received notice this week that, even though only earlier this year the trust reduced the payment percentage from 56% TO 41%, the payment percentage was going to be reduced AGAIN to a mere 18% of the liquidated value. National Gypsum manufactured and sold many products that contained asbestos. Many of these products were marketed under the “Gold Bond” brand name. Potentially dangerous National Gypsum products that contained asbestos included wallboard, roofing, shingles, cement board, gaskets, cements, adhesives, plasters, compounds, fireproofing materials, pipe covering and ceiling panels. Asbestos was chiefly used for its insulating and fire-resistant properties, and because it was readily and cheaply available. The company filed for bankruptcy on or about October 28, 1990.

U.S insurance companies have witnessed an increase in asbestos related claims in the first half of this year as AIG (NYSE:AIG), Hartford Financial Services (NYSE:HIG) and MetLife (NYSE:MET) have all reported an increase in asbestos related claims in their second quarter reports. Met Life reports an 11 percent increase in asbestos related claims.

Summing it up… Each year the bankruptcy courts allow for the review of the financial condition of the trust. They review the number of potential claims – an anticipated number based on industry trends and the amount of money held by the trust at the time. They then determine what percentage of the actual debt, or liquidated value of each potential claim they are capable of paying. That percentage – The percentage that the injured party will eventually be rewarded – continues to be reduced each year as the trusts perform their analysis. Some current Trust Payment Percentages are as follows:

  • Halliburton 52%
  • Harbison Walker 52%
  • Combustion Engineering 48.33%
  • Kaiser Aluminum 35%
  • United States Gypsum Company 30%
  • National Gypsum 18%
  • Babcock & Wilcox 15%
  • Plibrico 1.2%
  • and Keene which is paying a mere 0.8% of the claims liquidated value

Continue reading

Published on:

WR GRACE BUILDING.jpgThe Grace Company, which operated the chrysotile asbestos mines in Libby, Montana for decades, filed for Chapter 11 reorganization back in 2001 to protect itself from more than 100,000 personal injury claims. They manufactured a product called Zonolite Vermiculite Concrete. Over one decade later, the victims of asbestos exposure continue to wait for the opportunity to seek compensation.

While under bankruptcy protection, WR Grace has continued to buy and sell assets. Despite its, recent failure to acquire additional assets at a secret auction and Although it has required approval from the bankruptcy courts for each transaction, The company still operates on a grand scale; maintaining operations in 40 countries with an estimated 6,000 employees and $2.5 billion in annual sales.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Judith Fitzgerald in Wilmington OK’d Columbia-based Grace’s reorganization plan. The company said its plan involves establishing a pair of trusts to compensate personal injury claimants and property owners in connection with their asbestos-related claims against Grace. In order for Grace to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy court protection, however, its plan also needs the approval U.S. District Court Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter, of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Buckwalter is hearing the personal injury and property claims against the company.

zonollite.jpgGrace no longer manufactures asbestos containing products and the asbestos mines in Libby have been closed since 1990. Grace now makes specialty chemicals used in catalytic converters and construction products. Its stock has jumped 76 percent in the past year largely due to strong emerging market sales. However, cases of asbestos-related illnesses continue to haunt the town because It can take anywhere from 10-50 years after the exposure to asbestos fibers for an asbestos related condition such as mesothelioma cancer to show obvious symptoms.

“We recognize that there are a few more steps in the legal process, which we hope will move forward expeditiously,” said Chairman, President, and CEO Fred Festa. “I look forward to Grace emerging from Chapter 11 as a vibrant, growing company with a great future.” Should it win final approval to leave protection, Grace Company said it plans to pay creditors in full and set up a trust fund to pay victims of asbestos-related diseases. THAT remains to be seen.
Continue reading