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Lawyers from an aggressive mass tort litigation firm are crying foul over an asbestos defendant’s move to transfer 80 of their cases from state court to federal court, effectively stopping those cases from going to trial. The removal motions were filed Oct. 19 in state courts across Texas by defendant Garlock Inc., an Ohio-based manufacturer of asbestos-containing gaskets, after co-defendant Federal-Mogul Global Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware on Oct. 1. In identical motions filed in numerous federal district courts in Texas, Garlock states it has a third-party action against auto parts supplier Federal-Mogul for indemnification arising out of hundreds of personal-injury asbestos claims. Plaintiffs’ lawyers have nonsuited Michigan-based Federal-Mogul in numerous cases to allow the cases to go forward against Garlock, thereby avoiding automatic bankruptcy stays. Yet Garlock attorneys argue they should not be separated from Federal-Mogul’s bankruptcy action. “The severance or dismissal of [Federal-Mogul] from this removed civil action, without specific lifting of the automatic stay, will act to substantially damage the debtor and the co-defendants,” Garlock alleged in a transfer motion filed in U.S. District Court in El Paso, Texas. The plaintiffs allege they were exposed to asbestos in products made by Garlock and companies owned by Federal-Mogul, allegations the defendants deny. Lawyers with Dallas’ Waters & Kraus who represent 250 plaintiffs in cases against Garlock say the removal orders have only been filed in cases involving their firm’s attorneys. They allege the motion may be payback for their refusal to settle cases with Garlock. “This is a vendetta against my firm,” alleges Peter Kraus, a partner in Waters & Kraus. “It’s curious that we are the only ones in the country that have been trying cases to verdict against them … and they’ve only done it to us.” Waters & Kraus has prevailed against Garlock at trial, winning $471,000 in a jury verdict last year. Over the last two years, the firm lost two jury trials against Garlock. Melissa Ferrell and Shelby A. Jordan, lawyers representing Garlock in the removal action, did not return calls for comment. Paul Hanley, New York counsel for Federal-Mogul, also did not return a call for comment. In response motions, Waters & Kraus lawyers allege their cases were singled out for removal. “Although Garlock is a defendant in tens of thousands of asbestos cases across the country, including thousands of cases in Texas, and although the same asserted basis for removal would exist in every such case, Garlock did not remove any other cases,” the firm notes. “Instead, only the claims of persons represented by Waters & Kraus were removed.” Fred Baron, a principal in Dallas’ Baron & Budd, one of the nation’s largest asbestos litigation firms, says such removal motions rarely are successful. He says his firm has had a good relationship with Garlock lawyers and has settled many cases with them. Garlock has not sought to remove any cases filed by Baron’s firm. Baron believes the Waters & Kraus cases won’t stay in federal court long because federal judges reject the removals. “It’s a delay tactic,” Baron says. “Will it ultimately succeed? I don’t think so. It’s just throwing a screwdriver in the machine.”

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