Court of Appeals Holds Major Asbestos Companies Jointly and Severally Liable for $120 million Agreement With 15,000 Kelley & Ferraro Clients

Daily Legal News

September 2, 2003

The Ohio Eighth District Court of Appeals has affirmed six judgments from the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court requiring that each of the member companies of the Center for Claims Resolution (CCR), including Dana Corp., Pfizer Inc. and Union Carbide Corp., are jointly and severally responsible for paying a $120 million settlement to 15,000 asbestos victims. The Princeton, New Jersey-based center represents companies that manufactured or distributed asbestos-containing products. The victims are all clients of the asbestos plaintiffs law firm of Cleveland-based Kelley & Ferraro, LLP.

"These multinational corporations have agreed for years that they had responsibility to contribute financially to the workers and families victimized by asbestos exposure, and they should have adhered to their agreement in the first place," says Michael V. Kelley, managing partner of Kelley & Ferraro.

The Court of Appeals' decision, written by presiding Judge Patricia O. Blackmon, is based on an agreement that was approved in Cleveland in 1999 by Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Harry A. Hanna. The terms of the settlement called for member companies to make payments to the plaintiffs every six months, from July 1999 through December 2004, for a total of $120 million.

In 2000, however, the member companies shorted the required $10 million payment by almost $1 million, claiming that one member company, GAF Corp., had refused to pay its share of the payment. GAF later declared bankruptcy. The CCR companies further refused to make payments after various other members also sought bankruptcy protection.

From 2000 to 2002, Kelley & Ferraro filed six motions in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas to enforce the settlement. They were granted by Common Pleas Judges James J. Sweeney, Harry A. Hanna and Leo M. Spellacy.

To date, Kelley & Ferraro has attained $50 million in judgments against Dana, Pfizer, Union Carbide and the other members of the Center for Claims Resolutions. The ruling by the Eighth District Court of Appeals requires that more than $6 million in interest also be paid by these CCR member companies, and that each member company is jointly and severally liable for the total amount.

"We expect that by the end of 2003 that these corporations will fully comply with the terms of the initial agreement and the ruling of the Ohio courts and pay what is owed to these American workers so horribly victimized by their products," says partner James L. Ferraro.