The legal battle surrounding Garlock Sealing Technologies and its asbestos-containing products has taken a new turn. The company, currently in bankruptcy, has recently struck a deal with future asbestos claimants. The deal agrees to divide $358 million over the next 40 years among those who can demonstrate, in the future, that they were exposed to asbestos from Garlock’s gasket technology. That agreement has sparked controversy among the people with existing claims against the company.
To a company in bankruptcy, people who have become sick or watched loved ones die of mesothelioma or other asbestos related cancers are simply creditors. An agreement to devote certain funds to future creditors necessarily comes at the expense of existing creditors. There is only so much money to go around. This is the first time that future claimants and present claimants have been divided in an asbestos mass tort case. It has led many to question whether the divide is fair and to justify placing the rights of an unknown number of people with unknown levels of illness and exposure next to the rights of people who have already suffered from asbestos illnesses.
The Garlock case has been the subject of substantial fighting and rumor-mongering as the company has accused some plaintiff’s lawyers of pressing cases without sufficient evidence. Acrimony is not unusual in tort cases, but it has drawn attention away from the serious issue of asbestos exposure in this particular instance.
The new agreement will certainly be analyzed carefully by those who are concerned with the rights of people who have been exposed to deadly asbestos.
Source: Forbes, “Garlock Deal With Future Asbestos Claimants Sets Up Battle With Present Ones,” by Daniel Fisher, 14 January 2015