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December 13, 2018

Insurer Claims Asbestos Fraud Tainted Pittsburgh Corning Bankruptcy

An insurer that was required to help fund the $3 billion bankruptcy of Pittsburgh Corning Corning has filed court papers seeking the case to be reopened, saying “pervasive fraudulent conduct” by asbestos plaintiff lawyers tainted the proceedings.

The filing by Everest Re and its Mt. McKinley Insurance unit follows the opening of millions of pages of documents in the Garlock Sealing Technologies bankruptcy, which revealed how lawyers representing asbestos plaintiffs deliberately delayed filing claims against bankrupt companies until they had completed cases against solvent ones, in order to avoid cluttering the record with potential evidence of exposure to other firms’ products.

Everest is among the insurers ordered to pay $1.7 billion into the bankruptcy trust formed to settle claims against Pittsburgh Corning, a joint venture of PPG Industries PPG Industries and Corning that made asbestos insulation widely used in ships, refineries and other industrial settings. A judge approved the bankruptcy plan in 2013 and last year a federal district court judge rejected Everest’s challenge to the plan.

Everest’s claims mirror the findings of the bankruptcy judge who slashed Garlock’s estimated asbestos liability from $1.3 billion to $125 million last year after a detailed examination of 15 claims by several different law firms revealed every single one had withheld information about alternative exposures in order to mount a stronger case against Garlock. In that case, Judge George R. Hodges said the evidence suggested a process “infected by the manipulation of exposure evidence by plaintiffs and their lawyers.”

In its filing, Everest accuses several law firms by name of manipulating or hiding evidence including Waters Waters & Kraus of Dallas, New York’s Belluck & Fox Fox, and Motley Rice, the South Carolina firm most famous for helping to engineer the $200 billion master tobacco settlement with state attorneys general in 1998. Some of those same firms are being sued by Garlock for civil racketeering for allegedly withholding evidence to drive up settlement values.

The lawyers say the accusations against them are baseless. Under the terms of most bankruptcy trusts, which are set up and overseen by plaintiff lawyers, evidence of asbestos exposure can be as simple as a work history at a site where asbestos was known to be used. They say companies like Garlock made a business decision to settle lawsuits, frequently in bulk, in order to avoid the cost of litigation. It’s not the job of plaintiff lawyers to help them obtain evidence to reduce the value of those claims, those lawyers say; if manufacturers wanted evidence of other exposures, they could have questioned coworkers or used shipping records and other documents to show the presence of insulation, for example, which most independent medical experts say is far more dangerous than other forms of the mineral.

Garlock was able to question some of the lawyers under oath, however, and got revealing admissions about how lawyers delayed filing trust claims until after they’d concluded cases against solvent companies. In its filing, Everest cites a few examples, including that of Robert Treggett, a Waters & Kraus client who won a $24 million jury verdict against Garlock after a trial in which his attorneys repeatedly deflected questions about whether Treggett had been exposed to dangerous Unibestos insulation.

Garlock “didn’t bring proof that there was Unibestos on that ship. They couldn’t. It’s not true,” Treggett’s attorney said in closing arguments, and he was able to keep Unibestos off the jury form. Yet Treggett filed a claim in the PPG bankruptcy, attesting to the same exposure he’d denied at trial.

See the article here – 

Insurer Claims Asbestos Fraud Tainted Pittsburgh Corning Bankruptcy

Wallsend asbestos widow Chris Knighton welcomes new rules for asbestos compensation

Asbestos-related cancer sufferers are to receive up to £54,000 extra under new compensation rules brought in by government

Asbestos widow Chris Knighton has welcomed new rules for asbestos compensation.

The government has announced that asbestos-related cancer suffers are to receive up to £54,000 extra in compensation.

Under new rules for the government’s Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme, compensation will rise to match 100 per cent of average civil claims, up from the current 80 per cent, which could mean an increase of up to £54,000 a person, according to Ministers.

The change has been welcomed by Chris, who has dedicated her life to campaigning to help those affected by the deadly condition since her husband Mick died from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma in 2001.

The Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund, based in Wallsend, North Tyneside, has raised more than £1m for research and supported hundreds of people.

Chris, 68, said: “I feel very pleased. It has been a long haul for this to come about and it does give people the opportunity for compensation that would otherwise not have had.

“There is still a long way to go and sadly this decision should have been taken a long time ago as those with mesothelioma don’t have the luxury of time.

“Those with the condition want to know that their family will be financially provided for when they are no longer here and this is why the new rules are so important.”

Chris Knighton
Chris Knighton

Those diagnosed with asbestos-related mesothelioma from February 10 2015 will benefit from the payment increases.

Mesothelioma is a cancer affecting the lining of internal organs such as the lungs, which is usually connected to exposure to asbestos.

The North East is a blackspot for the disease, because asbestos was used in shipbuilding, construction and the automotive industry.

Ministers introduced legislation in 2013 to provide payments to those who cannot trace their former employer’s insurer.

But the compensation on offer was lower than the average compensation people would expect to receive by going through the courts – and MPs have been campaigning for the payments to be increased.

The Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme has already paid out over £19m in its first 10 months of operation.

Work and Pensions Minister, Lord Freud said: “For years, many victims of this truly terrible disease have been failed by successive governments and the insurance industry. With this scheme we are continuing to help the many victims and families that mesothelioma has left without financial support.

“From today we are raising compensation payments to 100% of average civil claims. It is partly thanks to the success of the insurance industry in tracing liable insurers and employers that we are able to make these changes as part of our on-going commitment to support mesothelioma sufferers.

“Though the majority of suffers are able to claim compensation through the liability insurance held by their employer, a significant minority cannot.

“Due to the length of time between asbestos exposure and cancer diagnosis, many employers and their insurers no longer exist and so the liable successor organisations are often untraceable.”

Blaydon MP Dave Anderson
Blaydon MP Dave Anderson

Blaydon MP Dave Anderson said: “I’m delighted to hear this news, this is what campaigners have asked for many years.

“At last people who were denied justice by dilatory ex-employers and their friends in the insurance industry will be properly compensated, it’s long overdue but welcome.”

Around 2,100 people in the UK are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. It is almost always fatal with most of those affected usually dying within twelve months of diagnosis.

A ‘standardised mortality ratio’ (SMR) is used to identify blackspots, where a figure of 100 would be the expected number of deaths, given the age of the population.

But in North Tyneside the figure is much higher, at 309, and in South Tyneside it is 303, reflecting the high incidence of mesothelioma in those local authority areas.

Across the Tyne and Wear Metropolitan County the figure is 235 and in the North East it is 170.

Ministers said the number of people claiming compensation under the scheme had been higher than expected.

Mesothelioma is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos, a soft material that used to be widely used in building construction as a form of insulation and to protect against fire.

See original:

Wallsend asbestos widow Chris Knighton welcomes new rules for asbestos compensation

Outstanding asbestos claims drag on insurance industry earnings

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Outstanding asbestos claims drag on insurance industry earnings

Compensation claims for asbestos in Lancashire hit £687k

Lancashire County Council has paid out almost £700,000 to people with conditions linked to asbestos in the past four years.

County Hall shelled out £672,094 in compensation and costs to victims in the past five years – and the authority has six ongoing claims. besides

Preston City Council also paid out £14,246.59, statistics revealed to the Evening Post.

Figures obtained under Freedom of Information requests reveal 17 people have contacted Lancashire County Council regarding asbestos claims since 2010.

Of those there were three pay outs, five cases where there was no payout and six ongoing claims – with one of those receiving a £50,000 interim damages payment.

The compensation claims came from victims who breathed in asbestos fibres.

It can cause mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer, which attacks the lining of organs and is fatal.

All but one of the claimants were employed by the county council and all the claims related to time frames from the 1950s and onwards.

Twelve of the cases related to mesothelioma, one to asbestos -related cancer, one to asbestosis and one is listed as industrial disease.

Their jobs at the council included roadsman, plasterer, cook, heating engineer, a factory worker and teachers.

Meanwhile of the two cases Preston Council dealt with they only paid out compensation in one of them.

The authority was unable to provide information on where in the council the two claimants had worked.

The claimants had mesothelioma and asbestosis.

Campaigners believe payments are likely to soar over the coming decade as more people fall ill and die after being exposed to the material, often decades ago.

Geraldine Coombs, a partner and expert asbestos-related disease lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Asbestos exposure is often regarded as something that only impacts those working within heavy industry, but the presence of the material in so many public buildings such as schools and hospitals, means that more and more people who are not working in traditional construction trades are being affected through no fault of their own.

“We have repeatedly called for a dedicated programme to identify any public buildings around the UK that contain asbestos and continue to pose a danger to those working in them, as well as calling for a schedule to systematically remove asbestos from these premises on a priority basis depending on the state of disrepair in each situation.

Given the vulnerability of children to the potential dangers of asbestos – we would suggest schools are given the highest priority in any action that may be taken.”

Bev Cullen, assistant county solicitor for Lancashire County Council, said: “Each claim is considered on its own facts and will be investigated in accordance with the county council’s insurance arrangements.

“Claims payments are made either from the council’s own reserves set aside for this purpose, our insurers, or a combination of the two. It depends on the date of the exposure, and the insurance arrangements that the county council had in place at the time.

“Claims will be investigated when they’re received. Generally the exposure date goes back many decades, so it is difficult to assess future numbers.”

No-one from Preston Council was available for comment. South Ribble, Chorley, West Lancashire, Fylde and Lancaster councils said they had received no claims for compensation.

Read original article:

Compensation claims for asbestos in Lancashire hit £687k

Asbestos review 'unsatisfactory'

The Government has been criticised for its approach to compensation for asbestos sufferers and urged to hold a fresh consultation.

The Justice Select Committee said the coalition’s approach had been “unsatisfactory” and that a review had not been conducted in an even handed manner.

In a critical report, the MPs expressed surprise that the Government had concluded a heads of agreement with the insurance industry without disclosing details to other parties.

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the pleural lining of the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos.

There were over 2,200 deaths from mesothelioma in 2011 and the number of cases is expected to continue increasing before peaking towards the end of the decade.

The Asbestos Victims’ Support Groups Forum UK has complained that cancer sufferers face being charged up to 25% of their awarded damages to pay for their legal costs as well as legal insurance premiums because of new legal provisions.

The select committee said the government’s review of claims was not prepared in a thorough and even-handed manner.

Chairman Sir Alan Beith said: “We listened carefully to views on both sides of an emotive and polarised debate about the process of claiming compensation for this terrible disease, caused by exposure to asbestos.

“We have concluded that the Government’s approach has been unsatisfactory on a number of counts.”

The committee said a heads of agreement was made between the Government and the Association of British Insurers, adding that the coalition was not open or transparent about the existence of the document.

Sir Alan added: “It was a surprise to us that the government concluded a heads of agreement, however informal its status, with parties on one side of the argument about mesothelioma.

The provisions of this document, which remained undisclosed to other interested parties, have shaped the Government’s approach to this issue, and we are concerned that the G overnment appears to have had no intention of supplying us with this document as part of our inquiry.”

Steve Murphy, general secretary of construction union Ucatt, said: “The Justice Committee’s findings should be welcomed be anyone who believes in fairness for asbestos victims.

“The Government has been caught in bed with the insurance industry.

“The Government’s proposals were the latest in a long line of policies where they have backed the insurance industry against the victims of asbestos, whose health has been damaged through no fault of their own.”

Daniel Shears of the GMB union said: ” The original consultation was clearly flawed and it’s absolutely right to look again at this as quickly as possible.

“In particular the behind the scenes deal done between the ABI and the Government flew in the face of an open consultation and we should thank the committee for bringing this shady backroom deal to light.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The Justice Committee is right to criticise the shoddy deal done between the insurance industry and the Government. Victims of this terrible and fatal illness deserve proper and swift recompense.

“We hope that the Government will urgently accept the recommendations of the Justice Committee and do the right thing for the victims of mesothelioma, 2,500 of whom die each year as a result of exposure to asbestos through their employer’s negligence.”

James Dalton, assistant director, head of motor and liability, Association of British Insurers, said: “While insurers did not cause mesothelioma, the industry has always been open and transparent on its commitment to help as many mesothelioma claimants and their families as possible. We make no apologies for negotiating with government a scheme, paid for by insurers, that will compensate an extra 3,000 sufferers over the next 10 years, who would otherwise go uncompensated.

“Significantly, this report raises the issue of high legal costs in mesothelioma claims, citing an average legal cost of £20,000 for every mesothelioma claim in England and Wales. Excessive legal costs mean higher insurance premiums for all employers, and clearly claimant lawyers need to answer to why they do not support lower legal costs.”

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: “We have long campaigned for justice for mesothelioma sufferers. But with a short and painful life expectancy the last thing sufferers and their families need are extra costs.

“The changes the Government tried to impose would have a detrimental impact on mesothelioma sufferers. It’s the negligence of past employers that has condemned these workers. It is only right employers should pay.”

Paul Glanville, a specialist mesothelioma lawyer at Slater & Gordon, said: ” We should not be making it harder for mesothelioma victims to claim the compensation to which they are entitled.

“Implementing these rules will have this effect. The Government promised a review before taking these steps. This has not taken place. Hopefully in the light of the findings the Government will take very seriously the calls from the victims and confirm that these rules will not apply to mesothelioma cases.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “Mesothelioma is an awful condition which can destroy lives in a frighteningly short amount of time and we want to help sufferers and their families. We are considering the best way to get claims settled fairly and quickly.

“We will consider the report’s recommendations and respond in due course.”

Link:  

Asbestos review 'unsatisfactory'

Teesside asbestos legacy exposed as councils set aside millions to compensate workers

By Alan Selby

Teesside’s ongoing asbestos legacy has been exposed after it emerged councils have set aside millions to compensate workers.

The extent of the impact being felt years after council workers were exposed to asbestos was revealed after the local authorities were forced to put aside funds worth nearly £3m for claims this year.

And a solicitor who helps asbestosis sufferers said the number of people coming forward is expected to keep rising over the next few years.

Roger Maddox, of Irwin Mitchell solicitors, added: “It starkly illustrates the continuing legacy of asbestos liabilities, which are a direct consequence of employers who negligently exposed employees to asbestos dust.”

Redcar and Cleveland Council has earmarked £2.5m to deal with industrial claims this year, while Middlesbrough Council’s fund totals £252,600.

Stockton Council has similar arrangements in place, but could not provide an accurate total for asbestos-related funds.

The councils were told they must make cash available after the High Court confirmed employers who exposed workers to asbestos were liable for damages, not whoever was employing them when their cancer later developed, as insurance companies had argued should be the case.

But because the Municipal Mutual Insurance company (MMI), which covered industrial claims against councils, had gone into administration, local authorities must now pay for legal action out of their own reserves.

Some 17 former employees are currently pursuing Redcar and Cleveland Council after contracting mesothelioma, the cancer that can develop up to 60 years after contact with asbestos dust.

Norman Pickthall, cabinet member for corporate resources at Redcar and Cleveland Council, said: “Because of the complex nature of asbestos-related illnesses and the significant sums involved, the council has allocated £2.5m to deal with any future compensation claims, although we expect the final cost to the council to be lower. The council’s situation is not unique and like many other local authorities we have been planning for this issue for a number of years.”

Asbestos was used for a very long time in the construction industry
Asbestos was used for a very long time in the construction industry

 

The funds only relate to council employees, with the full extent of compensation in the private sector unknown, but one support group has secured more than £1.5m worth of funding for compensation in the past year alone.

Since September 2012 the Northern TUC Asbestos Support and Campaign Group has assisted at least 128 people suffering with asbestos-related cancers, providing support to them and their families.

They say 2,500 new cases develop in the UK every year, and this could become nearly 3,000 each year by 2015 – at the moment about 300 people in the North become ill.

Northern TUC regional secretary Beth Farhat said they were working with Macmillan Cancer Support to offer free and impartial advice and support to anybody in the North-east who had been affected by an asbestos-related disease.

She said: “Unfortunately, the need for groups like ours and support for asbestos victims will only continue to grow over the next 10-15 years at least, as the full-scale of asbestos exposure comes to light.

“However, we aim to provide at least a little comfort – and a lot of practical support to those who find themselves affected by such debilitating illnesses.

“While money won’t buy back sufferers’ health, it is only right that they are provided with the means to have some quality of life, without having to worry about who will care for them or if they can afford to pay vital bills.”

To speak to the support group, contact Maggie Bailey on 07983 883274 or email Maggie.Bailey@tadea-uk.com.

It’s workers like Alan who pay the ultimate price

Alan Dean was exposed over years of loading the material on to ships. He died aged 81
Alan Dean was exposed over years of loading the material on to ships. He died aged 81

 

A devastated widow has paid tribute to her husband who died from asbestos-related cancer while his compensation battle was ongoing.

Sheila Dean’s husband Alan succumbed to mesothelioma in April – 23 years after he retired from a career as a labourer on Middlesbrough’s docks that exposed him to the hazardous material.

At 15 he left school in Whinney Banks, Middlesbrough, to start work that would see him travel across Teesside’s docks as a stevedore responsible for loading and unloading cargo.

His work on Tees Dock saw him carry sacks of asbestos from a Middlesbrough factory on to ships that exported the hazardous material around the world.

And Alan’s death – five days before his 81st birthday – came as legal action against the National Dock Labour Board that was responsible for exposing him to asbestos dust dragged on.

Despite clear health risks linked to asbestos having been discovered as early as 1898, Alan was not given any protective equipment against the plumes of dust that surrounded him while he worked.

And today his family is still fighting for financial security after the huge impact Alan’s disease had upon them.

Sheila, 69, said it had been extremely hard to watch him suffer from the incurable condition. She said: “Mesothelioma is a cruel disease, lying dormant in the body with no telling symptoms, striking as if from nowhere years later.

“Alan’s unexpected death has impacted enormously on us as a family. Alan was a fit and healthy man with no medical conditions and taking no medication.”

And Sheila added that it was years before any sign of the disease became apparent in Alan.

She said: “We are grateful that Alan got to enjoy 23 happy and healthy years of retirement with his family, spending our winters in sunny Spain and our summers enjoying the garden and playing bowls, which he enjoyed so much.”

Ian Toft, an asbestos claim expert at Irwin Mitchell solicitors, said Alan’s condition showed how employers who had negligently exposed workers to asbestos were ruining lives decades later.

He said: “I have been working with victims of asbestos exposure now for over 10 years, yet I am still stunned by the conditions so many of my clients were working in at a time when their employers should have known of the risks presented by asbestos and taken the necessary steps to protect their workers.

“Now we have the tragic scenario of honest working men like Alan suffering the consequences of their employers’ inaction.”

Original article:  

Teesside asbestos legacy exposed as councils set aside millions to compensate workers

£350m for asbestos cancer victims

Taken from: 

£350m for asbestos cancer victims

Asbestos cancer payouts 'not enough'

Chest X-rayMesothelioma is a form of cancer which can take decades to develop

Related Stories

Campaigners have expressed fears thousands could miss out under a new compensation scheme for those with the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma.

The Queen’s Speech included a scheme to help those with the disease, which is usually contracted in the workplace, who cannot trace their insurer.

But campaigners said victims of other asbestos-related conditions would miss out and criticised a cap on payouts.

Ministers said the scheme was a “major breakthrough” for victims.

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of internal organs, notably the lungs, and almost always arises from exposure to asbestos.

People do not develop symptoms of the disease until about 30 or 40 years after exposure and there is no known cure.

‘Fait accompli’

Cases in the UK have been rising in recent years, with official figures showing about 2,400 die each year from the disease.


Case Study: Larrie Lewington

Larrie and Rebecca Lewington

Larrie Lewington, 65, from Eynsham, Oxfordshire, was exposed to asbestos in his 20s while working as a lagger.

He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in August 2012, so he will be eligible for compensation under the new scheme, but his daughter Rebecca told the BBC the 70% cap on compensation was “insulting”.

She said: “When my dad was working with asbestos the government at the time knew it was dangerous and they need to take some responsibility.

“For them to do this scheme and then say they are going to cap it is incredible. It’s insulting.

“My dad worked his whole life, paid all his taxes and his national insurance, and he never borrowed a penny. Now, through no fault of his own, he’s got this disease.

“It’s been devastating. We’re a very close family and it’s ruined our lives.

“I wish I could go into Parliament and face them and they could see the pure pain that I’ve got.

“It’s as good as murder what they’ve done, allowing this substance to be used and now, to put it bluntly, it is going to kill my dad.”

Because of the delay in developing symptoms, some workers who were negligently exposed to asbestos at work find it difficult to trace an employer or insurer who is liable to pay compensation.

On Wednesday, the government announced a Mesothelioma Bill, which will set up a payment scheme aimed at addressing this “market failure”.

The proposal is to offer all victims using the scheme a flat-rate payout set at 70% of the average compensation paid out by insurers to those victims not using the scheme.

It will be paid for by a levy on insurance companies which provide employers’ liability and is expected to cost the insurance industry £300m over the next 10 years while helping more than 300 sufferers a year.

But campaigners say the scheme does not go far enough in compensating victims, and thousands who suffer from other asbestos related diseases, such asbestosis and pleural thickening, will not receive anything.

The proposed 70% cap on compensation is also a “red line” for campaigners.

Tony Whitston, chairman of the Asbestos Victims Support Group, said: “What appears to be a great deal brokered by government, and costing the insurance industry a small fortune, is in reality something entirely different.

“This scheme excludes 50% of asbestos victims, pays ‘average’ compensation only to victims dying from the cancer mesothelioma and then slashes average compensation by 30%.

“This scheme is not what we expected. It was presented as a fait accompli to asbestos victims and saves the insurance industry a small fortune at huge cost to asbestos victims.

“The bill needs to be unpicked and repackaged if the victims’ best interests are going to be truly at its heart.”

‘Life is a mess’

There have also been concerns that only those who are diagnosed after 25 July 2012, when the government first announced details of the scheme, will be eligible for compensation.

Arthur Butts, an electrician who is now his 70s and was diagnosed with the disease two years ago, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that there was “no sense” in the cut-off point.


Mesothelioma facts

  • Deaths from mesothelioma continue to increase in the UK
  • Most deaths occurring now are a legacy of past occupational exposures to asbestos when it was widely used in the building industry
  • The number of mesothelioma deaths has increased from 153 in 1968 to 2,347 in 2010
  • Annual deaths are expected peak in 2016
  • High risk jobs include carpenters, plumbers, electricians, pipe fitters and metal workers

Source: Health and Safety Executive

“I feel a bit cross about it,” he said. “I feel it’s discrimination on a large scale.”

“I think the compensation could come in full from when you were diagnosed. If they had the disease they’d be a little bit more understanding.”

The effect of the disease on his life had been “terrible”, he said.

“I’m not living a normal life. I can’t do anything. If I exert myself anything other than walking up the garden I have to have a five minute sit down to take a breath.

“Life is just a mess.”

The British Lung Foundation said it would seek to amend the bill to ensure a “long-term, sustainable research fund” is set up to find a cure for mesothelioma.

‘Devastating disease’

It said “a shamefully small amount” was spent on research – only £400,000 in 2011, compared with £11.5m spent on lung cancer.

But Otto Thoresen, director general of the Association of British Insurers, welcomed the bill saying: “The insurance industry wants to do all it can to help sufferers and has worked with the government on this package of measures that will deliver help to claimants much faster, including to those who would otherwise go uncompensated.”

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “The mesothelioma support scheme will be a major breakthrough for the many victims of this terrible disease – who have been failed by successive governments and the insurance industry for many years.

‪”It will end the injustice that means many victims and their families do not receive compensation and it will help around 3,000 people over the next 10 years as we reach the forecast peak in cases.

“We urgently announced the scheme in July last year to ensure as many people as possible will be covered.”

Taken from:  

Asbestos cancer payouts 'not enough'