Asbestos Defendants Seek Access to Bankruptcy Documents

Asbestos Defendants Seek Access to Bankruptcy Documents Jay Mallin A Ford

Litigation over access to evidence of misrepresentation in asbestos cases is not quite over yet.

A bankruptcy judge rejected motions by several asbestos defendants and insurers seeking access to the evidence that led him to find widespread evidence of misrepresentation by plaintiffs in the insolvency of a gasket manufacturer.

The judge reasoned it would be most efficient for the U.S. District Court of the Western District of North Carolina to hear on appeal all of the motions for access at the same time.

However, one issue remains pending before U.S. Bankruptcy Judge George Hodges—Ford Motor Co.’s bid for access to Federal Rule of Bankruptcy 2019 statements. Those statements must be filed by anyone participating in bankruptcy cases,

The official committee of asbestos personal injury claimants said in a court filing that the proceeding to estimate Garlock Sealing Technologies LLC’s liability for mesthelioma claims involved confidential matters, including the identity of people who were not parties to the proceeding.

“Solvent defendants and insurers have flocked to this court hoping to obtain and exploit in individual tort suits the confidential materials assembled here for altogether different purposes of an aggregate estimate,” the plaintiffs said. “These developments have the potential to divert the court and the parties from the central business of debtors’ reorganization and turn the court’s docket into the plaything of strangers to the case.”

The plaintiffs also argued that Ford’s request is overbroad, including its demand for “private and confidential commercial information of asbestos victims with whom it has no connection.”

Hodges declined to hear further argument on unsealing evidence other than the Rule 2019 statements.

“The most expeditious route to resolution of the issues is to have all these matters presented to the district court when it considers the present appeal,” Hodges said.

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