Monday, August 21, 2006

The Asbestos Story

Anyone interested in asbestos and/or Mesothelioma should read The Asbestos Story: America’s Greatest Industrial Tragedy.

Subtitled "A Tale of Deceit, Design & Temerity," this article is an excellent overview of the history of asbestos litigation in the United States. It is written by attorney Christopher Placitella and is well-referenced.

The article is broken up into sections with titles such as "New Jersey Asbestos Lawsuit Filed", "Physician Dedicates Life to Asbestos Diseases", and "Asbestos Victims, Lawyers Blamed for Bankruptcies".

In 1981, Johns Manville is the first to implement a new strategy for avoiding claims by filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The Johns Manville bankruptcy plan establishes a Trust to pay for claims filed by asbestos-exposed people who develop disease. The Trust is segregated from the rest of the company. The company goes on doing business as usual while being shielded from all future asbestos liabilities.

Unfortunately, as time goes on, it becomes clear that the amount of money needed to pay claims estimated in the bankruptcy process is inadequate, and that the workers will not be as fully compensated as they thought they would be.

As part of the bankruptcy process, the Trustee for the now Johns Manville Trust turns over to the plaintiffs' attorneys all of the documents previously in Manville's possession for their examination. Many of these documents have never been produced and their very existence has been denied, including the records of the lawsuit filed by Mr. LeGrande, more than 20 years earlier.