The ongoing bankruptcy trial of Garlock Sealing Technologies was partially sealed by a federal judge, as a law professor offered testimony pertaining to allegations of fraud against some of the claimants seeking compensation from the company for asbestos exposure.
Specifically, the professor was testifying about certain provisions in the trust that led to “rampant” fraud in settlement cases.
Our Boston mesothelioma attorneys understand this secrecy has prompted at least one media outlet to file a motion to keep all aspects of the proceedings public.
Part of the reason why this is important is that if fraud were happening on a wide scale with regard to these asbestos bankruptcy trusts, it would be in the best interest of legitimate claimants to have this issue tackled. However, in our experience, we have seen asbestos defendants use unfounded or overblown allegations of fraud as a means to “open transparency” in court proceedings. The ultimate effect this has had is to make it tougher for even legitimate claimants to secure compensation, particularly from more than one defendant.
Are there ever instances of individuals who improperly seek compensation from asbestos trusts or defendants?
There have been investigations, but few leading to any major findings of wrongdoing. Further, research by the Government Accountability Office found that claimant fraud was not a significant problem as it relates to asbestos trusts.
Yet, powerful, deep-pocketed asbestos defendants, intent on defending their assets at any cost, were able to convince Congress members that it was a big enough problem to introduce the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act, now waiting House approval. This measure would make it tougher for those who have suffered the devastating effects of asbestos exposure to receive just compensation. It requires the public release of extensive personal information about the plaintiffs. Cases would be slowed down and even more victims will die before ever seeing a dime.
In fact, most asbestos victims are grossly under-compensated not only for their enormous medical costs, but also for their personal losses. Asbestos companies have long seized on the advantage afforded by the bankruptcy system to establish these trusts to handle liability claims. But these trusts have always been severely underfunded.
Maybe it was because the exposure happened many years ago. But people tend to forget that these companies knowingly exposed millions of innocent and unsuspecting Americans to this harmful material. These same firms then proceeded to cover up those dangers in order to continue making a profit.
Garlock is a large industrial firm that has been named in thousands of asbestos liability cases over the years, which is why it is now seeking bankruptcy protection. It is the nation’s largest manufacturer of industrial gasket products and has distribution centers established in some 75 countries.
If it wants to take measures to make it tougher for claimants to be compensated – even if that’s in the name of anti-fraud efforts – those tactics should be made public.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
Legal Newsline files motion to keep Garlock trial open, July 30, 2013, By T.K. Kim, Legal Newsline
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Railroad Worker with Mesothelioma Dies, Family Awarded $1.4M, July 29, 2013, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyer Blog