Garlock Appeals Plaintiff Identity Ruling in Asbestos Claims
The Charlotte Business Journal
reports that a subsidiary of Garlock Sealing Technologies, EnPro Industries, “is appealing a U.S. Bankruptcy Court decision shielding the identities of tens of thousands of asbestos claimants in 12 bankruptcy cases filed by makers of asbestos products.” The news source reports that Garlock attorneys believe this decision potentially enables these claimants to “pursue separate cases to boost settlement income.” The news source explains that claimant identity is generally public, though Judge Judith Fitzgerald allowed “lawyers to file the claimants’ names and their specific claims off the public docket, citing a concern for privacy of personal-health information.” Today Garlock is a global leader in fluid sealing product manufacturing for a variety of the world’s processing industries, including refining, chemicals and petrochemicals, power generation, and food and pharmaceuticals, among others. However, the company used asbestos in some of the products it produced. Asbestos is a mineral which was used heavily in past industry, though it is now known that exposure can lead to a number of lethal illnesses, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Countless companies have come under fire since the 1980s for their past use of this material, particularly after the surfacing of internal documents showing a widespread industry awareness of the risks. Nevertheless, the Charlotte Business Journal
reports that “Garlock says the gaskets and sealants it made did not release much asbestos when disturbed, unlike the insulation and other products the bankrupt companies made.” The news source explains that the company has succeeded limiting the size of settlements against it by “demonstrating how rubber and other materials bound the fibers in its products and released only trace amounts of asbestos when disturbed.” However, the Charlotte news source explains that limiting settlement amounts has been far more difficult for this company since the “wave of bankruptcies” other manufacturers filed for a decade ago. In June 2010, rising costs of its defense and settlements forced Garlock into bankruptcy. Lawyers for Garlock are arguing that after this ruling, they will be “unable to show how claimants are blaming separate defendants for causing their injuries,” the Charlotte Business Journal
explains. According to the news source, this access to plaintiff identity could potentially lower the company’s settlement and litigation costs, which have increased greatly after the past wave of asbestos defendants filed for bankruptcy. The news source reports that Steve Macadam, the president and chief executive officer at EnPro said he is “confident the judge applied the wrong legal standard,” though he acknowledged that public access is not given to all papers filed in federal courts. Reference:
- Charlotte Business Journal Staff. (October 14, 2011) “EnPro subsidiary appeals decision in asbestos claims.” Retrieved on October 17, 2011 from the Charlotte Business Journal.