February 18, 2019

A Stubborn Manufacturer Exposes The Asbestos Blame Game

In a quiet bankruptcy court in Charlotte, N.C., closed to all but court personnel and people who’d signed strict confidentiality orders, attorney Garland Cassada laid out the inner workings of one of the longest-running and most lucrative schemes in the American litigation business.

Arguing for a manufacturer of asbestos gaskets named Garlock Sealing Technologies, Cassada explained how lawyers had tailored the testimony of their clients to minimize their exposure to more dangerous products, thus making Garlock seem more liable than it really was.

Cassada’s evidence for this scheme came from the mouths of the asbestos lawyers themselves. In an unprecedented move Garlock had persuaded U.S. Bankruptcy Judge George Hodges to allow it to dig into case files and question the lawyers who’d helped drive the company into bankruptcy.

EnPro's Steve Macadam: This is ridiculous.

EnPro’s Steve Macadam: This is ridiculous. (Photo credit: David Smith for Forbes)

That led to revealing disclosures like that of Benjamin Shein, a prominent Philadelphia asbestos attorney whose firm had settled the case of a former shipyard worker named Vincent Golini against then-solvent Garlock in 2009.

Golini was dying of the excruciating, asbestos-linked cancer known as mesothelioma when he sued Garlock and testified that he couldn’t recall working with other, more common and more hazardous products like Owens Corning’s Owens Corning’s Kaylo pipe insulation or EaglePicher asbestos cement. As soon as he settled, however, Golini’s lawyers filed claims against those precise companies based on affidavits they’d drawn up before Golini professed ignorance of their products.

“Our goal is to maximize a client’s recovery, okay, and in order to do that, what we focus on for the deposition is the viable, nonbankrupt companies,” said Shein in his own deposition. “That’s our job, okay?”

And had the asbestos lawyers prevailed, Shein’s efforts and Golini’s multiple filings would have remained secret. But thanks to Garlock’s persistence (and a successful lawsuit by Legal Newsline, a U.S. Chamber-funded publication seeking release of sealed court documents) the evidence has come spilling out. That evidence could be the biggest turning point in the decades-long multibillion-dollar battle over who will pay for asbestos cleanup across the U.S. Garlock is suing Shein and lawyers at five other firms for racketeering and fraud over their asbestos litigation. Shein’s lawyer, Daniel Brier, says that “Ben Shein is a zealous advocate for his clients” and the lawsuit has no merit.

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A Stubborn Manufacturer Exposes The Asbestos Blame Game

Swiss billionaire Schmidheiny Wins Asbestos Court Battle

Billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny was acquitted this week of complicity in 3,000 deaths related to the use of asbestos in factories formerly part of his chemicals empire, Eternit. Italy’s supreme court overturned a ruling which sentenced the Swiss entrepreneur to 18 years in prison stating the evidence in the case was out of date.

Schmidheiny had been fighting the case which wound its way through the Italian court system for years. In 2012, he was jailed in absentia for 16 years, a sentence that was raised by an appeals court to 18 years in 2013. Throughout the case, Schmidheiny who avoids the limelight, denied the charges stating once the perils of asbestos were known, he sold out of the business and was not running the factory during the period claimed in the deaths.


“My group was heading toward bankruptcy as a consequence of the combined effects of asbestos-related problems and a major slump in construction markets. Thus I built my group virtually from scratch,” he wrote to Forbes in 2009 for a feature story.

Shmidheiny inherited the Eternit Group when he was 37 as the fourth generation of a Swiss industrial dynasty. Before he took full control, he had worked around the globe for his family’s Eternit Group, which manufactured a line of construction products that had begun in 1903 with asbestos-reinforced cement. At age 29, after toying with the idea to become a missionary, studying law and travelling abroad, he was called back to headquarters. That is when he began to face the company’s asbestos concerns. Schmidheiny had filters installed at Eternit factories to reduce dust in the air, beefed up employee training and began to move the company away from asbestos-based products. He notes that he himself was exposed to the mineral while working in his early 20s hauling sacks as a shift foreman at Eternit in Brazil. When Schmidheiny took full control of the company, he sold off most asbestos operations and diversified into other ventures, including the Latin American investment holding company, GrupoNueva, and the then ailing watch firm Swatch. (He sold off his Swatch shares after it recovered.)

In 2003 Schmidheiny focused more on his burgeoning philanthropic efforts. He placed $1 billion in business assets, including GrupoNueva, into a charitable trust, which its profits annually to help entrepreneurs across both Central and South America. In a 2012 interview with Forbes he said, “In keeping with the family tradition, my charitable activities first began in Switzerland where we supported – and continue to support – a broad range of activities e.g. in the field of conservation of the cultural heritage, protecting women’s and children’s rights, protection of the environment, to name just a few. In 1992 I had an experience as the founder of the Business Council for Sustainable Development around the UN conference of Rio that profoundly changed my outlook on life. Thus, I greatly expanded my philanthropic endeavors and put a major emphasis on promoting sustainable forms of development in Latin America.”

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Swiss billionaire Schmidheiny Wins Asbestos Court Battle

Italy court annuls conviction for Swiss billionaire in asbestos scandal

ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s top court has overturned an 18-year jail sentence for a Swiss billionaire convicted over his role in the country’s biggest asbestos scandal, saying too much time had passed since the alleged wrongdoing.

Stephan Schmidheiny was found guilty in 2012 of negligence at his company’s Italian factories in the 1970s and 80s, which eventually led to almost 3,000 asbestos-related deaths.

However, in a ruling that stunned relatives of the dead, Italy’s highest court annulled the verdict late on Wednesday, saying the statute of limitations had kicked in.

The decision means that the Swiss businessman will also escape having to pay millions of euros in fines and compensation ordered by Italian courts in 2012 and 2013.

Prosecutors in the original trial said Schmidheiny had not taken sufficient measures to protect the health of workers and nearby residents from the asbestos used at the Italian plants of his building material firm Eternit.

The factories had used asbestos in the production of cement. The plants closed in 1986, but workers and local residents continue to suffer the consequences, with Italy’s biggest union saying that the latest victim of an asbestos-related disease was only buried on Saturday.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said the ruling underscored the need to reform Italy’s notoriously snail-paced judicial system. “We need to ensure that trials take less time, and change the statute of limitations,” he told RTL 102.5 radio on Thursday.

Schmidheiny had been accused of causing an environmental disaster — a charge which expires under Italy’s statute of limitations. Prosecutors said they were now reviewing other possible legal avenues to bring the case back to court.

Schmidheiny’s spokesman called for all legal proceedings to be halted, saying the company had already paid “many tens of millions of euros” in compensation to the victims since 2008.

The company said Schmidheiny had never played an operational role in the management of its Italian activities and said it had only been the major shareholder in the Eternit unit for 10 out of its 80-year history.

According to prosecutors, Eternit’s products were used to pave streets and used as roof insulation around its plants in northern and southern Italy, resulting in years of exposure for the unsuspecting local population.

Asbestos became popular from the late 19th century onwards as a way to reinforce cement. But research later revealed that the inhalation of asbestos fibres can cause lung inflammation and cancer. It is now banned in much of the world.

(Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by Crispian Balmer)


Italy court annuls conviction for Swiss billionaire in asbestos scandal

Families of tragic Aston University workers win cancer payout

Aston University has
awarded compensation to the families of two former workers who died after contracting asbestos-related cancer.

Valerie White and Robert Burns both worked in the Biological Sciences department at the university in the 1960s, 70s and 80s where the pipes in the basement were lagged with the killer dust.

Asbestos insulation boards were cut up on site whilst Mr Burns, who died aged 75, was present.

The dad-of-two worked as a research laboratory technician and had relocated to Cockermouth, in Cumbria, where he died in September 2010 from Mesothelioma, a cancer in the lining of the lung caused by exposure to asbestos.

Mrs White, a former secretary from Wylde Green, Sutton Coldfield, also contracted the disease and died in October, 2009, aged just 52.

Both victims’ families launched legal action through Birmingham-based solicitors Irwin Mitchell, who secured an undisclosed payout.

Mrs White’s widower Christopher, 61, said: “Valerie’s illness came as such as shock to us and it was heart breaking to see her in pain and watch her strength slowly deteriorate at such a young age, knowing that ultimately there was no cure to the disease.

“Since Valerie died we have been determined to secure justice for her death and we are relieved that our legal team’s persistence paid off having now secured a settlement from Aston University.

“We hope that this will act as a reminder to employers to protect their workers from exposure to asbestos, so other families do not have to watch their loved ones endure so much pain and suffering.”

Jane was married to Robert for 42 years and met him when they both worked in the Biological Sciences department at Aston University. She said: “It was devastating to watch my husband go through so much pain in the final years of his life.

“The fact that he became so ill just from going to work every day is still hard to accept. I am at a complete loss since the death of my soul-mate, which has left a void in my life that has not eased with the passing of time.

“The last four years since Bob’s death have been a terrible ordeal and I am very glad that the case is now over and the university have had to pay for the suffering they caused, although no amount of money can make up for Bob’s suffering or my loss.

“Our daughters and grandchildren miss him as I do and he will never be replaced in their hearts or mine.”

An Aston University spokesman said: “We are pleased that a settlement has now been reached on these two cases, which relate to an earlier chapter in the history of the university.”

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Families of tragic Aston University workers win cancer payout

Claim for £300k over asbestos death is thrown out

THE family of a company boss who blamed his death from asbestos-related cancer on his work at Marks & Spencer in York have had their hopes of £300,000 compensation dashed by a top judge.

John Thorman Heward, who was managing director of Newcastle-based shopfitters, D.H Allan & Sons Ltd, was 61 when he died in 2009 from mesothelioma, an agonising cancer of the lining of the lungs which is invariably fatal.

Mr Heward, who started working for D.H Allan at the age of 16 before rising through the ranks, blamed his illness on work he carried out for Marks & Spencer Plc between 1967 and 1984.

He was exposed to asbestos dust and fibres whilst carrying out joinery work at a store in York in 1967 and, in later years, whilst modernizing 13 M&S stores across the North East..

Although Mr Heward died years before his case came to court, he made detailed statements which were used during the hearing at London’s High Court.

His wife, Catherine, did not long survive him and the case was pursued by the executors of her estate on behalf of surviving heirs.

Mr Heward had described himself as ‘suit and tie man’ who was unaware of the risks posed by asbestos and who did not start to wear protective clothing until 1984.

The family’s barrister, David Allan QC, told Judge David Pittaway QC that exposure to dust from asbestos tiles and pipe lagging whilst carrying out joinery work and inspecting ceilings in M&S stores was to blame for his “painful and distressing terminal illness”.

The barrister pointed to one alleged incident of exposure in particular, saying that, in 1967, Mr Heward was working beneath an asbestos ceiling which was being fitted at the York branch and quantities of asbestos dust were “falling directly on him.”

The QC added that, although D.H Allan did not work exclusively for M&S, 80% of its work was based at the company’s stores.

The court heard that, during the 1960’s and 1970’s, M&S stores underwent modernization, including having suspended ceilings made of Asbestelux tiles fitted.

After 1984, M&S put in place protocols to protect workers from asbestos, but lawyers argued that Mr Heward’s exposure up to that point was already enough to hand him a death sentence decades later.

Today Judge Pittaway said that asbestos had at the time been “used extensively” in M&S stores, particularly in ceiling tiles.

He added: “I am satisfied that Mr Heward contracted mesothelioma whilst he was carrying out work for D.H Allan at M&S stores sometime between 1967 and 1984”

However, dismissing the compensation claim, the judge said M&S had employed specialist contractors to carry out the work at the York store.

By the standards of the time, he ruled, it was “not reasonably foreseeable” that the presence of asbestos would pose a threat to the health of others working there.

Knowledge of the asbestos hazard was still developing in the 1960s and 1970s, and the level of Mr Heward’s exposure when inspecting and surveying ceiling voids would have been lower than hygiene or control limits in force at the time.

The judge concluded: “It follows that, in my view, the claim against M&S fails on both the exposure to asbestos that the deceased experienced in the York store in 1967, and in stores subsequently, whilist inspecting store premises”

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Claim for £300k over asbestos death is thrown out

Asbestos Mesothelioma Legal Advice is Available at New Website InjuryLawyerFree.com

We know that Asbestos Mesothelioma lawyers are expert in this field. They are highly experienced and knowledgeable about this

Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) September 19, 2014

InjuryLawyerFree.com, a website that is designed to help people get free asbestos mesothelioma legal advice, has just launched its new and easy-to-navigate site.

As a spokesperson for the website noted, there is a definite need for a website like http://www.InjuryLawyerFree.com. Over 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed annually in the United States, and many of the people who are dealing with this serious illness are unsure of what they should do, or where they can turn for legal assistance.

This is where InjuryLawyerFree.com can help: by helping people who have been exposed to asbestos get a mesothelioma free claim evaluation, as well as find a reputable and caring asbestos mesothelioma lawyer who can assist them.

“An expert asbestos mesothelioma lawyer can help us how to win the case,” the spokesperson said, adding that very few law firms have expert mesothelioma attorneys for asbestos cases.

“We know that Asbestos Mesothelioma lawyers are expert in this field. They are highly experienced and knowledgeable about this.”

Once it has been confirmed that the client has mesothelioma, a lawyer who is experienced with asbestos can find out where the asbestos exposure took place, set the recovery fees for the victim, file the case in court, provide guidelines for the payment from the mesothelioma lawsuit settlements, and collect all of the necessary documents so the client will be compensated.

InjuryLawyerFree.com also offers in-depth information about mesothelioma, and asbestos exposure, and who is at high risk for developing this serious health condition. It also provides helpful insight about mesothelioma class action lawsuits. For example, for people who might be curious about the usual amount of the lawsuit settlements, an article on the website explains that there is no clear or definite answer. In the United States, the average amount of the settlements is usually between 30 to 40 percent of the recovery fee.

Anybody who would like to learn more about InjuryLawyerFree.com is welcome to visit the new website; there, they can read about asbestos exposure and mesothelioma, and how they can get a free evaluation of their claim.

About InjuryLawyerFree.com:

InjuryLawyerFree.com is a new website dedicated to help people getting legal advice for their personal injuries as well as providing a claim evaluation at no cost nor obligations. For more information, please visit http://www.injurylawyerfree.com/asbestos-mesothelioma-lawyers-attorneys/


Asbestos Mesothelioma Legal Advice is Available at New Website InjuryLawyerFree.com

U.S. court revives asbestos fraud case against BASF

FRANKFURT, Sept 5 (Reuters) – BASF, the world’s largest chemicals maker by sales, said it was considering appealing the revival of a U.S. fraud case against it by representatives of alleged asbestos victims.

A U.S. appeals court ruled this week that BASF and its former law firm had a case to answer in a class action alleging they conspired to prevent thousands of asbestos-injury victims from obtaining justice by destroying or hiding evidence.

The New Jersey District Court had dismissed the case but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit rejected parts of that ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings.

BASF said in a statement emailed to Reuters on Friday: “The remaining claims concern asbestos injury suits brought decades ago against Engelhard, a company BASF acquired in 2006, relating to Engelhard’s talc mining operations that ended in 1983.”

“BASF is evaluating its options to obtain further review of the Court of Appeals’ decision on this point.”

The plaintiffs allege that BASF and Engelhard Corp concealed evidence that its talc products contained disease-causing asbestos and fabricated other evidence used in court by its law firm, Cahill Gordon and Reindel LLP.

The products were used in wall boards, dusting agents and children’s balloons.

The alleged scheme to conceal the evidence and dismiss or settle court cases collapsed a few years ago when a former research chemist for Engelhard testified in a New Jersey case that he had discovered asbestos in Engelhard’s talc and been instructed by the company to turn over all related records.

The district court had ruled that BASF and Cahill were not liable for any false statements they may have made because of New Jersey’s litigation privilege, which is designed to protect lawyers from defamation actions and further openness in court.

The appeal court rejected that argument. “New Jersey’s Supreme Court has never recognised the litigation privilege to immunize systematic fraud, let alone fraud calculated to thwart the judicial process,” it said in its ruling.

(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan and Frank Siebelt; editing by Susan Thomas)

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U.S. court revives asbestos fraud case against BASF

RPM reaches $797.5 million deal to resolve Bondex asbestos claims

By Tom Hals

July 28 (Reuters) – Rust-Oleum paint maker RPM International Inc on Monday announced a $797.5 million deal to resolve asbestos claims against its Bondex International Inc unit, which filed for protection from creditors in 2010 after mounting personal injury lawsuits.

If the agreement receives court approval, it would end a contentious Chapter 11 bankruptcy in which a judge ruled Bondex should pay about $1.2 billion to resolve asbestos claims. Bondex, which had said it should only pay $135 million, was appealing the ruling.

RPM shares were up 2.8 percent at $45.64 in afternoon New York Stock Exchange trading.

Under the agreement, RPM will provide an initial $450 million in cash to a trust once the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and the U.S. District Court in Delaware approve a reorganization plan for Bondex.

RPM, which also makes DAP caulk, would contribute the remaining $347.5 million in cash, stock or a combination of the two within four years after the trust has been established.

All current and future asbestos claims against Bondex and related entities would then be channeled to the trust, according to a Monday statement by Medina, Ohio-based RPM.

Bondex and another RPM unit, Specialty Products Holding Co, filed for bankruptcy in May 2010 in the wake of lawsuits over its asbestos-containing products such as joint compound, which is used in filling drywall gaps.

Bondex and personal injury lawyers clashed over how much money was needed to fund a trust to resolve the asbestos claims.

The lawyers said $1.255 billion was an appropriate amount based on what Bondex paid in past settlements.

Bondex said its liability could not be determined by looking to past settlements because those deals included payments to rid itself of nuisance lawsuits. Without those nuisance payments, the company said, its asbestos liability would have been about $135 million.

Former U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Judith Fitzgerald rejected that argument. She retired shortly after issuing the opinion in May 2013, and Judge Peter Walsh is now overseeing the case.

Monday’s agreement, if the courts approve it, would head off a federal appeals court’s potentially binding ruling on Bondex’s approach to estimating liability.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that can cause deadly cancers, including mesothelioma. Scores of companies have filed for bankruptcy and collectively paid tens of billions of dollars to set up trusts to resolve personal injury lawsuits involving asbestos.

RPM said it expected the contributions to the trust to be tax-deductible, and it estimated the after-tax net present value of its contributions at about $485 million.

The case is Special Products Holding Corp, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware, No. 10-11780.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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RPM reaches $797.5 million deal to resolve Bondex asbestos claims

Asbestos exposure in schools case sees cancer sufferer paid £275,000 by Devon County Council

Chris Wallace

Chris Wallace was awarded an out of court settlement by Devon County Council after claiming he developed cancer after being exposed to asbestos in school in South Molton in the 1990s and 1980s.

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A “UNIQUE case” where a man claimed he was exposed to asbestos as a schoolboy in South Molton and developed cancer has seen a £275,000 payout by Devon County Council.

Between 1982 and 1993 Chris Wallace went to Yeo Valley Primary School, Yeo Valley Junior School, South Molton JuniorSchool and South Molton Community College.

The 36-year-old was diagnosed with asbestos-related terminal cancer of an organ lining at the age of 30.

Known as peritoneal mesothelioma, this form of cancer grows in tissues covering the abdomen and can lie dormant for up to 40 years.

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Mr Wallace’s claim was settled by the council just weeks before the case went to court and it awarded him the money without admitting liability.

Mr Wallace, who has since moved to Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, took great care in recollecting times of when he may have come into contact with asbestos during school.He collated examples ahead of the case, which will now not be heard.

Mr Wallace was reported as saying: “It was a very difficult case, having to prove you were there and that you were exposed to a certain level.

“The council has to take a large chunk of responsibility. They know it’s in the building and children are at risk of getting to it.

“It’s down to them to ensure it’s removed safely.”

Devon County Council said this was the first case of a former pupil taking such legal action.

A spokesman for Devon County Council said: “This is a unique case and the only time a former Devon school pupil has taken legal action in these circumstances.

“We obviously have every sympathy with Mr Wallace for his illness. But it is important to point out that the case was settled out of court without any admission of liability from Devon County Council.

““Devon County Council takes great care to manage asbestos in its buildings and that includes regular inspections. Asbestos is safe as long as it isn’t disturbed.

“All Devon schools have been surveyed for asbestos and each school holds a full record of any asbestos in its buildings.

“This identifies where asbestos is located, its condition and our safety policies. Contractors are also required to sign the asbestos list on any visit which has the potential to disturb the asbestos.

“Schools have their own Asbestos Management Plans which detail their local arrangements, including communication between the school, parents and staff.”

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Asbestos exposure in schools case sees cancer sufferer paid £275,000 by Devon County Council

Governor Signs Asbestos Lawsuit Bill Despite Veterans' Opposition

There are thousands of asbestos-related deaths in the U.S. every year. Thursday, Governor Walker signed a bill that changes the process for bringing asbestos exposure lawsuits in Wisconsin.

It’s a bill that was strongly opposed by numerous veterans groups. Now veterans harmed by asbestos say it’s going to be much harder to prove their case.

Dave Behrend, commander of VFW Post 7534, worked on a Navy ship back in 1972.

“On the ship at that time, everything had asbestos. Everything did.”

Asbestos was used extensively for fireproofing and insulation.

Behrend worked in a mechanical room, where he says asbestos filled the air.

“We couldn’t see from four feet away. It was impossible to see the door. The lights were very, very dim, the dust was so thick. And they had a lot of bright lights yet,” said Behrend.

Asbestos is now known to cause an aggressive cancer called mesothelioma decades after exposure. Once diagnosed, life expectancy is 2 years or less.

Thursday, Governor Walker quietly signed the asbestos exposure bill into law “to ensure transparency in the lawsuit process and stop trial lawyers from double dipping,” according to administration spokeswoman Laurel Patrick.

But veterans groups in Wisconsin say the changes will stall or stop the process for many victims.

Behrend fears, “if my turn came and I had to make a claim” he wouldn’t live through litigation.

Time is not on a plaintiff’s side. “At that time they don’t have to pay out, at that time, or they can go for a lesser amount.”

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Governor Signs Asbestos Lawsuit Bill Despite Veterans' Opposition