Judge Authorizes Disclosure of Asbestos Evidence

Judge Authorizes Disclosure of Asbestos Evidence

A judge has overruled an emergency motion seeking to block a gasket-maker going through bankruptcy from releasing information subpoenaed by Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge George Hodges of the Western District of North Carolina said the names of people who sued Garlock Sealing Technologies LLC before it filed for bankruptcy and who cast creditors’ ballots in the In re Flintkote Co. bankruptcy can be disclosed to Imperial Tobacco.

Other information that can be disclosed includes the type of diseases the plaintiffs claim stem from their exposure to asbestos, the plaintiffs’ law firms and other bankruptcy cases in which they filed ballots.

Imperial Tobacco has agreed to keep the data confidential and only to use it in litigation regarding Flintkote.

A group of asbestos claimants filed the emergency motion seeking to block the gasket-maker from releasing the information.

Garlock said that complying with Imperial Tobacco’s subpoena would not violate a protocol established to allow people and companies to object to the unsealing of evidence of alleged misrepresentation by asbestos plaintiffs lawyers.

Hodges has set out the protocol to govern public access to evidence of misrepresentation by plaintiffs’ lawyers in several cases that Garlock settled in the past or in which Garlock lost jury verdicts. That alleged evidence of misrepresentation led him to estimate that Garlock likely owes $125 million to asbestos plaintiffs, not around $1 billion to $1.3 billion as the plaintiffs alleged.

The official committee of asbestos personal injury claimants said that Garlock and related debtors intended “to release sealed information that is subject to the public-access protocol prior to any affected person having an opportunity to seal it as contemplated by that order.”

Amaris Elliott-Engel is a contributor to law.com.

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