Judge sides with Garlock in asbestos claims fight
January 15, 2014 at 10:31 AM
The ruling was a considerable victory for the Palmyra maker of seals and gaskets that has been dealing for 30 years with litigation regarding its now-discontinued use of asbestos. After being hit with a number of large verdicts against it in recent years, Garlock filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010.
U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge George R. Hodges’ ruling Friday was to determine how much the company likely would end up paying to settle those mesothelioma claims — mesothelioma being a rare cancer of the lining around the lungs.
And in his ruling Friday, Hodges said that taking into consideration “causation, limited exposure and the contribution of exposures to other products,” $125 million should cover the bill.
“Garlock has demonstrated that its products resulted in relatively low exposure of a relatively lower potency asbestos to a limited population and that the population exposed to Garlock’s products was necessarily exposed to far greater quantities of higher potency asbestos from the products of others,” Hodges wrote.
In an affidavit when Garlock filed for Chapter 11, Chief Financial Officer Donald G. Pomeroy II said it was “overwhelmed by the financial and institutional costs of defending and resolving tens of thousands of asbestos claims in state and federal courts across the country.” Bankruptcy, Pomeroy said, is a way “of resolving their alleged asbestos liability in a single forum that offers an efficient and fair means of determining and satisfying (Garlock’s) responsibility for the mass of asbestos personal injury claims pending against them and expected to be filed in the future.”
At the time it filed for bankruptcy, Garlock was facing 4,000 mesothelioma cases, plus an unknown number of future claims.
As part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Garlock has proposed a $270 million fund to cover asbestos-related litigation claims. A pair of bankruptcy committees made up of law firms suing or expected to sue Garlock had sought a fund of $1 billion to $1.3 billion — those figures based on dollar amounts from Garlock’s history of settling past asbestos suits.
Hodges’ ruling came after a 17-day trial held over the summer, with numerous expert witnesses on both sides presenting health and scientific evidence.
By Matthew Daneman
Democrat & Chronicle