CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Legal Newsline) – The judge overseeing Garlock Sealing Technologies’ bankruptcy has agreed to release a portion of the previously sealed record.
On Feb. 2, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge George Hodges granted a request made by an insurer and reinsurer to release redacted materials from a 2013 proceeding dedicated to determining Garlock’s liability to past and future asbestos victims.
Hodges originally shut the courthouse doors during a part of the proceeding in which Garlock introduced evidence of plaintiffs attorneys making misrepresentations about their clients’ exposures.
But Legal Newsline appealed, and the record was ordered unsealed. It is expected to be made available in its entirety April.
Hodges’ Feb. 2 order authorizes the release of redacted portions of the estimation record by Feb. 13. The order says this information will be all estimation record materials other than bulk questionnaires and bankruptcy ballots.
Following the estimation hearing, Hodges ruled that asbestos verdicts against and settlements with Garlock had been inflated because plaintiffs attorneys had withheld evidence of other exposures to asbestos while pursuing civil lawsuits against Garlock, which manufactures gaskets.
Garlock was ordered to put $125 million in a trust, roughly $1 billion less than plaintiffs attorneys requested. Garlock recently reached a $358 million agreement with a group that represents the interests of future asbestos complainants.
During Garlock’s bankruptcy, Hodges permitted Garlock to bring evidence that roughly 220 settled cases included instances of withheld evidence by plaintiffs attorneys.
“It appears certain that more extensive discovery would show more extensive abuse,” Hodges wrote in his January 2014 order.
“But that is not necessary because the startling pattern of misrepresentation that has been shown is sufficiently persuasive.
“While it is not suppression of evidence for a plaintiff to be unable to identify exposures, it is suppression of evidence for a plaintiff to be unable to identify exposure in the tort case, but then later to be able to identify it in Trust claims. It is that practice that prejudiced Garlock in the tort system.”
Recently, the racketeering lawsuits Garlock filed against four asbestos firms were unsealed. Those firms are Shein Law Center of Philadelphia, Belluck & Fox of New York City, Waters & Kraus of Dallas and Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett, also of Dallas
From Legal Newsline: Reach editor John O’Brien at email@example.com.