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Big cases, big clients, big adversaries
DID YOU KNOW?
The Garlock Sealing Technologies asbestos case
started out as usual—with Garlock, an industrial gaskets manufacturer, paying claims for decades, then
filing for bankruptcy. Enter Garland Cassada, who
introduced a twist that changed the case’s course.
Although it wasn’t new for a company to be
forced into bankruptcy by asbestos litigation,
Cassada, first chair of the Garlock litigation,
looked at it with fresh eyes.
His strategy? Questioning how his client’s liabil-
ity was determined.
The tradition was to look at the average settlement paid by a company over the years, then extrapolate into the future to determine the amount
needed to set up funds for current and future
claimants. For Garlock, the plaintiff’s asbestos
committee came up with $1.2 billion.
But Cassada believed those past settlements
were not reflections of Garlock’s liability. He
suspected the Garlock gaskets were, at most, a
minimal source of exposure. Though workers testified they were exposed to asbestos when removing
old gaskets, Cassada believed repairing such a
leak would have required cutting through insulation “that would expose you to thousands of times
more asbestos fibers than a Garlock gasket.
“We called it a ‘bucket in the ocean defense:’
that any exposure to Garlock was like a bucket
in the ocean of exposures that plaintiffs had to
Many claimants, however, were saying they had
not been around other sources of asbestos, Cas-
sada says. That didn’t sound right to him, and he
BY BETH TAYLOR
A Gasket Case
How Garland Cassada helped expose a double-dipping legal scam
asked to look at the records of trust funds set up
by other companies that had gone bankrupt due to
The problem? Secrecy orders. Getting the
records took years, says Cassada. When he got
them, he found that plaintiffs who said they had
been exposed only to Garlock’s gaskets had made
claims against multiple companies’ trust funds.
He asked U.S. Bankruptcy Judge George Hodges
to allow his team to take discovery from the plain-
tiff firms about cases against Garlock. The judge
agreed to limited discovery.
“Our approach,” says Cassada, “was to convince
the bankruptcy judge ... to look at the merits of
claims and at how Garlock and its products fit in to
the industries and all of the different products that
workers would have been exposed to who worked
with Garlock gaskets.
“We bucked the traditional notion that a com-
pany’s liability should be measured by the amount
of settlements it’s paid historically, and favored a
Judge Hodges rejected the $1.2 billion plain-
tiff’s request; instead, Garlock and its parent
company wound up with a $480 million tab,
which will be voted on by Garlock’s creditors in
December. Cassada expects the settlement to
close next summer.
He credits his “bright, creative and enthusiastic”
team with the defense win. “It provides a precedent for a better way to measure a company’s
responsibility for claims when they’re facing mass
litigation,” he says.
Scholars are divided on the origin of the word “asbestos.”
Some claim it’s derived from the ancient Greeks’—who used asbestos in pottery—
sasbestos, which means “inextinguishable,” a nod to the material’s invincibility to
the heat of fire. Others believe the word’s origin can be traced to the Latin amiantus,
meaning “unsoiled,” most likely due to the ancient Roman practice of weaving asbestos
fibers into a cloth-like material that was allegedly cleaned after being thrown into fire.
Whether Greek or Latin, one thing translated the same—the dangers of asbestos. Roman
author Pliny the Elder and Greek geographer Strabo both wrote of sicknesses in slaves
who mined the material from ancient stone quarries.