By SALLY HIGGINS
Dear Mr. O’Brien,
My firm represents Williams Kherkher Hart & Boundas, LLP and Troy Chandler in a lawsuit filed against them by Garlock Sealing Technologies.
Your May 14, 2015 story (“Once hailed as victory, Texas man’s asbestos case was used against plaintiffs [sic] firm”), like others Legal Newsline has published regarding Garlock’s bankruptcy narrative of widespread fraud in the asbestos tort system, ignores a simple yet critical feature of the operation of bankruptcy trusts including the Babcock & Wilcox trust discussed in your article. Your inexplicable failure to include (or worse, your conscious decision to omit) any reference to “site lists” as a basis for claims against asbestos trusts renders the article inaccurate and defamatory.
For reasons reflecting both administrative expedience and practical reality, the trusts established by bankrupt asbestos manufacturers follow expedited procedures to evaluate most claims. A claim may be based upon proof that a claimant diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease worked in a specified job at a specified location during a specified time period; if the documentation of those facts is sufficient, the claim will be approved even if the injured worker has no memory or evidence of the bankrupt manufacturer’s name or of having been exposed to a particular product it manufactured. In those instances, ample evidence has already led to the determination that the manufacturers’ products were indeed used at those sites during given years and workers in the specified jobs therefore are presumed to have been exposed to asbestos from those products.
The actual trial record of Oscar Torres’ case against Garlock and others, had you chosen to review it, would have given you ample reason to reject, or at the very least question, Garlock’s theory of attorney discovery abuses and manipulation of evidence. Mr. Torres indeed testified that he did not know the name “Babcock & Wilcox,” but he also testified to substantial asbestos exposures through work on equipment for which Babcock & Wilcox was without question responsible. His work as a pipefitter at Union Carbide’s Brownsville plant—facts which are not and have never been in dispute—qualified him to make a claim against the Babcock & Wilcox trust. The predicate facts for that claim were at all times well known to Garlock. Moreover, at trial Garlock itself introduced substantial evidence of Mr. Torres’ exposure to “snow storms” of asbestos released from thermal insulation, as well as substantial documentation of the manufacturers of that thermal insulation. A jury considered all of this evidence and ultimately concluded that Garlock bore 45% of the fault for Mr. Torres’ mesothelioma. It bears noting that Union Carbide, which was also assigned 45% of the fault, has never suggested that Mr. Torres or his lawyers misrepresented anything at all.
Recognizing that your publication is intended to support your parent company’s goal of correcting perceived rampant lawsuit abuse, your readers are nonetheless entitled to fair and accurate reporting. My clients and the family of Oscar Torres deserve the same.