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Factions of specialty chemicals maker RPM International Inc. are in the process of bankruptcy due to asbestos litigation, and attorneys for the firm had attempted to argue that its liability should be somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 million to $575 million.
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court, however, basically said, “Nice try, but you’ll have to do better.” The court called the theory upon which the firm had attempted to limit its liability in asbestos claims “novel,” but ruled it didn’t pass legal muster. That means the company will more than likely need to set aside about $1.2 billion for current and future claims – about twice what it had originally anticipated.
Our mesothelioma lawyers applaud the court’s ruling and its willingness to refuse the asbestos defendant’s attempts to sidestep responsibility for the harm caused to potentially hundreds of thousands of people with its dangerous products and failure to warn.
This is a ruling that, while a victory certainly for specific plaintiffs in cases against RPM International and subsidiary Bondex, also has widespread implications for future asbestos litigation. Specifically, it’s going to come into play for these firms in determining how much money they have to set aside in their bankruptcy asbestos trusts to cover current and future asbestos liability claims.
This is a company that produced a type of joint compound that was routinely used to fill gaps in drywall during construction projects. That compound contained asbestos, and as we all know, asbestos causes mesothelioma, a form of aggressive and terminal cancer that lies dormant for decades.
According to Thomson Reuters, RPM and Bondex filed for bankruptcy back in the spring of 2010 with the intention of establishing an asbestos trust for all the personal injury claims filed against the firm. It is in this way that many companies have been able to continue to operate, virtually shielded from future claims.
Individuals who were harmed would then file a claim with the trust and be awarded a settlement amount, based on their damages.
A big part of this whole process involves determining how much a company should set aside, by calculating how many people the firm has harmed and how much each plaintiff should be paid. In doing this, the court will look at prior claims the company has awarded.
In this case, the company argued that this history of prior claims shouldn’t be counted toward how much should be set aside for future claims because of the number of “nuisance cases” it had settled. That is, the firm says it settled cases that didn’t necessarily have merit because it was cheaper than fighting them in court. For this reason, the firm said those cases shouldn’t be tallied when determining how much should be set aside for future claims.
The judge rejected the argument, saying that historical settlement data is an important determinant in evaluating future claims.
The ruling could affect cases like this two-fold. One, it’s probably going to mean that defendants will fight more cases in court, even if it does end up costing more than a settlement might otherwise. The ruling means defendants have more to lose than just the case at hand if they settle.
But secondly, it will mean more sizable payouts made to those who can successfully make a claim to an asbestos trust.
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Frequently Asked Questions: Mesothelioma & Asbestos
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a carcinogenic, naturally occurring fibrous mineral. Known for its heat resistance and durability, asbestos has historically been used in insulation, construction materials, automotive parts, and shipbuilding materials.
Why is asbestos dangerous?
Asbestos is made up of small shard-like fibers that can easily become airborne when disturbed. If inhaled or ingested, these fibers can embed within the lining of the lungs, heart, stomach, or testes where they can cause cancer to form years or decades later.
What are asbestos-related diseases?
Asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.
What causes mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is an aggressive and incurable form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Unfortunately, symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear until decades after exposure.
What are the different types of mesothelioma?
Three of the most common types of mesothelioma are pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma, and pericardial mesothelioma.
What are common mesothelioma symptoms?
Common symptoms of mesothelioma include difficulty breathing and chest pains. Peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the stomach, may cause abdominal swelling, loss of appetite, constipation, abdominal pain, and nausea.
Do I qualify for compensation if I have mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a preventable form of cancer most commonly caused by asbestos exposure. If you were exposed to asbestos while serving in the U.S. military or while working in construction, mechanics, or a similar field, you may be eligible for compensation. Contact The Ferraro Law Firm for a free legal consultation.
What is the life expectancy for someone with mesothelioma?
There is no cure for mesothelioma. However, patients can receive treatments for mesothelioma that may extend their initial prognosis with proper treatment. Those diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma usually have a life expectancy that is greater than three years, though a large part of this depends on the stage the patient is diagnosed. The earlier the diagnosis, the longer the life expectancy and chance of long-term survival.
Do I qualify for compensation if I have mesothelioma?
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you should immediately seek long-term medical treatment. After that, you should contact our firm to examine your legal rights. Since 1985, The Ferraro Law Firm has represented individuals with asbestos-related diseases and pursued fair compensation on their behalf. Our firm is one of the top five law firms in the U.S. handling mesothelioma and asbestos cases.
Help for mesothelioma victims can be found at The Ferraro Law Firm by calling (888) 554-2030. Offices in Miami, Washington, D.C., and New York City.
Bankruptcy judge rejects ‘novel’ theory to limit asbestos liability, May 21, 2013, By Tom Hals, Thomson Reuters
More Blog Entries:
Bill Would Enhance Worker Protections From Asbestos, Other Hazards, May 3, 2013, Mesothelioma Lawyers Blog