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Bankrupt gasket maker sues asbestos lawyers alleging fraud, RICO violations

Charlotte Bankruptcy Lawyer Bryan W. Stone of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “What are the pros and cons of bankruptcy ?”

 

After Vincent Golini was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2009, he met with lawyers at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s Shein Law Center.

Asbestos Charlotte Bankruptcy Lawyer North Carolina Chapter 13 AttorneyAccording to law suits unsealed by a Charlotte, North Carolina bankruptcy court, Golini told Shein lawyers that he had been exposed to as many as fourteen asbestos products produced by a range of bankrupt companies including Owens Corning and Armstrong World Industries.

Mesothelioma is a deadly lung disease caused by exposure to harmful asbestos particles, often inhaled while working in industries that use asbestos to produce certain products.

When Shein brought suit on Golini’s behalf against Garlock Sealing Technologies, a now-bankrupt western-North Carolina based gasket maker, he denied being exposed to asbestos through products made by companies other than Garlock. Evidence of exposure through products made by other companies was intentionally suppressed, the news service Reuters reports, because those companies were bankrupt at the time Golini brought suit. That made Garlock a far-more attractive target to asbestos claimants like Golini.

After Garlock settled with Golini, lawyers at Shein directed Golini to “file claims with the asbestos trusts that were set up by Owens Corning and other bankrupt makers of asbestos products.”

After Garlock declared bankruptcy in 2010, it sued four law firms including Shein alleging that lawyers “concealed evidence and induced clients to commit perjury to drive up asbestos-related settlements and garner big fees,” according to Reuters.

Garlock declared bankruptcy after more than 900,000 asbestos-related claims were filed against it, many of those resulting in multimillion dollar payouts to injured parties. According to Asbestos.com, Garlock has paid out some $1.37 billion in indemnity payments, while insurers have paid out an additional $1 billion.

In 2014, Bankruptcy Judge George Hodges wrote that Garlock’s asbestos liability resulting from some 100,000 pending claims was as high as $125 million, but that the company’s past settlements with asbestos claimants had been tainted by fraud.

The lawsuits brought against law firms representing injured claimants were ordered unsealed last summer, however they “only became available to the public on Tuesday,” according to Reuters.

In the suits, Garlock alleged that the law firms violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act—an Act that United States attorneys have used to target organized criminal enterprises. The Act—nicknamed “RICO”—provides for a civil cause of action to aggrieved claimants, and empowers federal district courts “to award triple monetary awards, attorney fees, and to issue equitable orders preventing and restraining violations,” according to Tollefsen Law.

Daniel Brier, an attorney representing Shein in the litigation, said Garlock’s racketeering lawsuit is “completely without merit.” Attorneys for the other named defendants—New York-based Belluck & Fox, and the Dallas, Texas-based firms Waters Kraus & Paul and Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett—said Garlock was merely attempting to re-litigate cases it settled long ago and to “blame others for the consequences of its own conduct,” according to Reuters. Garlock also named Mark Iola—a partner at Dallas-based Iola Galerston—as a defendant in the case.

If you find yourself needing the services of an experienced Charlotte, North Carolina bankruptcy attorney, please call the skilled lawyers at Arnold & Smith, PLLC find additional resources here. As professionals who are experienced at handling all kinds of bankruptcy matters, our attorneys will provide you with the best advice for your particular situation.

 

 

About the Author

Bryan 1Bryan Stone is a Partner with Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses his practice on all aspects of bankruptcy, including: Chapter 7, Chapter 11, Chapter 13, home loan modifications and landlord-tenant issues.

A native of Macon, Georgia, Mr. Stone attended the University of Georgia, where he earned a BBA in Banking and Finance, and Wake Forest University School of Law, where he obtained his law degree.

Following law school, Mr. Stone relocated to Charlotte, where he currently serves as Chair of “Bravo!” – a young professionals organization associated with Opera Carolina – and founded the University of Georgia Alumni Association of Charlotte.

In his spare time, Mr. Stone enjoys perfecting his barbeque skills for the annual “Q-City BBQ Championship” and playing softball in the Mecklenburg County Bar softball league.

 

 

Sources:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/21/enpro-garlock-bankruptcy-idUSL1N0UZ2NS20150121

http://www.asbestos.com/companies/garlock.php

http://www.law360.com/articles/598364/garlock-says-asbestos-racketeering-claims-not-time-barred

https://tollefsenlaw.com/civil-actions-under-rico/

 

 

Image Credit:

“Russian made asbestos, after 1983” by LukaszKatlewa – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Russian_made_asbestos,_after_1983.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Russian_made_asbestos,_after_1983.jpg

 

 

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