In the latest large-scale settlement from a company with asbestos-related claims, RPM International Inc. has agreed to settle asbestos litigation claims for almost $800 million. The Bondex and Specialty Products divisions of RPM are undergoing reorganization in a Delaware bankruptcy court after thousands of lawsuits were filed against the companies for use of asbestos in their products.
The company claimed asbestos-related liabilities of less than $400 million, but a bankruptcy judge estimated that claims could have been as high as $1.17 billion. The $797.5 million settlement will be paid to a trust fund to cover the cost of damage payments to victims of asbestos-related illnesses, such as mesothelioma and asbestosis.
In many cases, a current company, such as RPM, may not produce any product that contain asbestos, but may be the successor of companies who manufactured items that used the deadly material during the heyday of the industrial usage during the last century.
Because it was so versatile, asbestos was found in everything from industrial steam boilers to potholders and tea cozies. Trust funds are used to ensure that future generations of asbestos victims continue to have access to compensation from the corporate entities responsible for causing their horrible disease.
Sadly, while the defense attorneys for these companies like to raise the specter of fraud by some victims when they attempt to file claims with the trust funds, the bigger fraud is that perpetrated by an industry that for decades knew of the danger of asbestos.
They downplayed and ignored these dangers and fought actively against efforts by governmental agencies to regulate and ban the use of these deadly materials.
And they legacy will be decades of future victims, caused by the presence of asbestos in millions of locations in homes and businesses across the nation.
Source: Bloomberg.com, "Rust-Oleum Maker to Pay $797.5 Million to Asbestos Trust," Phil Milford and Steven Church, July 28, 2014