GM’s Bankruptcy Estate May Face Billions in Mesothelioma Claims

08/31/2010 // Chicago, IL, USA // Cooney & Conway // Mesothelioma lawyers: Cooney & Conway

With a federal judge’s backing, creditors of General Motors Corp.’s bankruptcy estate hope to determine the extent of the company’s asbestos liability—an amount they say could be five to ten times GM’s $648 million estimate.

For years, GM brake linings contained asbestos—which has been scientifically linked to deadly diseases like lung cancer and mesothelioma, a nearly always fatal cancer striking the protective lining covering many of the body’s organs.

While GM had asbestos claims of less than $2 million a year in the 1990s, by the mid-2000s that figure had risen to an average of $30 million annually.

From 2000 through 2008, the company had an average of 850 mesothelioma claims a year. Given the many years, or even decades, after asbestos exposure it typically takes the disease to develop, mesothelioma lawyers and experts say GM’s future liability may be far greater.

Creditors sought and received permission from U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Gerber in NY to obtain information from General Motors and other entities that could help estimate future mesothelioma claims.

Under Gerber’s order, the creditors can demand documents from trusts that are processing asbestos claims on behalf of other bankrupt companies. Those trusts have funding of $30 billion to $60 billion for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related claims, the creditors said.

Motors Liquidation Co., the last portion of General Motors remaining in bankruptcy, also plans to form a trust with moneys allocated to cover future asbestos liability. But determining the extent of that liability—in particular, the damages mesothelioma lawyers might seek on behalf of stricken clients—remains essential to moving out of bankruptcy.

“This isn’t like the formula for Coke or nuclear launch codes,” Gerber said after hearing testimony about the fears that the information could be misused if disclosed. As part of his order, Gerber instructed attorneys for asbestos claimholders and creditors to come to an agreement on an arrangement for keeping confidential any information about age, work history, and diagnosis.

This news story was brought to you by the mesothelioma lawyers at Cooney & Conway. For more than half a century, we have been advocates of those injured because of the negligence or wrongful actions of others. We have litigated, settled, and resolved some of the nation’s most significant asbestos lawsuits, bringing answers and compensation to victims of asbestos-related diseases like lung cancer and mesothelioma.

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