CHARLOTTE, N.C.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--EnPro Industries, Inc. (NYSE: NPO) today announced that its Garlock Sealing Technologies, LLC (GST) subsidiary has appealed a decision of the US Bankruptcy Court handed down last week in Pennsylvania. The decision, by Judge Judith Fitzgerald, denied GST’s motion to gain access to the identities of thousands of asbestos claimants who have appeared in 12 bankruptcy cases of prominent former asbestos defendants over which Judge Fitzgerald presided.
Normally, the identities of creditors who appear in bankruptcy cases are matters of public record. In these cases, the bankruptcy court required lawyers to identify their clients who alleged claims against the bankrupts, but permitted lawyers to file the claimants’ names and the specific nature of their claims off the public docket. As a result, holders of tens of thousands of asbestos claims against the 12 former defendants have been hidden from public view. The bankruptcy court refused to let GST have access to the names of such asbestos claimants.
Steve Macadam, president and chief executive officer of EnPro, said, “We are confident the judge applied the wrong legal standard. She failed to follow the fundamental rule that, except in rare circumstances that don’t apply here, papers filed in federal courts are subject to public access.
“All we want is transparency - let the world see who claims injury at the hands of bankrupt asbestos defendants and what they said about their exposures,” Macadam said.
EnPro and GST are confident that with this simple information, the public can scrutinize the claiming practices of asbestos plaintiffs who assert claims against one set of defendants in the tort system and against another set of former defendants who are in bankruptcy cases or who have set up trusts to pay claims against them. “The denial of access to this information just doesn’t pass the fairness test,” Macadam added,
A Congressional subcommittee is investigating the transparency issue to determine whether to move forward with legislation designed to provide simple access to the type of information the Pennsylvania federal court is protecting. Both EnPro and GST believe that if claimants deny knowledge of exposure to the asbestos products of bankrupt defendants when they make claims against GST, but then turn around and make claims against defendants in bankruptcy cases, or trusts set up to pay claims against such defendants, both GST and the public have an interest in knowing about it.
Rick Magee, senior vice president and general counsel of EnPro, noted that GST had previously shown the court examples of plaintiffs who denied knowledge of exposure to the products of bankrupt defendants in claims against GST but who swore to contrary positions when they made claims against trusts. “We know we have only seen the tip of the iceberg at this point,” he said.
“If claimant representatives are sincere in their claims that concealment of evidence wasn’t going on, then why are they working so hard to keep us from gaining access to the information that will answer the question definitively one way or the other?” Magee continued.
In its own bankruptcy case pending before a federal bankruptcy judge in Charlotte, NC, GST asserts that its gasket and packing products, which contained encapsulated asbestos, could not have made claimants sick and that it became a significant asbestos defendant only after culpable co-defendants, who mined raw asbestos or manufactured asbestos insulation, wall board or other dangerous asbestos products, exited the state court tort systems by filing for bankruptcy in the early 2000s. GST, which has been a defendant in asbestos claims since the 1970s, regularly prevailed in court on asbestos claims before those bankruptcies. After the filings, however, the plaintiffs’ bar turned their sights on Garlock and began targeting it and other remaining defendants while denying the culpability of bankrupt former defendants.
About Garlock Seal Technologies
Headquartered in Palmyra, NY, Garlock Sealing Technologies LLC is an EnPro Industries, Inc. company. For more than a century, GST has been helping customers efficiently seal the toughest process fluids in the most demanding applications.
About EnPro Industries
EnPro Industries, Inc. is a leader in sealing products, metal polymer and filament wound bearings, components and service for reciprocating compressors, diesel and dual-fuel engines and other engineered products for use in critical applications by industries worldwide. For more information about EnPro, visit the company’s website at http://www.enproindustries.com.
Statements in this press release that express a belief, expectation or intention, as well as those that are not historical fact, are forward-looking statements under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. They involve a number of risks and uncertainties that may cause actual events and results to differ materially from such forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, adverse developments that could arise in regard to voluntary petitions filed by certain of our subsidiaries in U.S. Bankruptcy Court to establish a trust that would resolve all current and future asbestos claims. Our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including the Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2010 and Form 10-Q for the quarter ended June 30, 2011, describe these and other risks and uncertainties in more detail. We do not undertake to update any forward-looking statement made in this press release to reflect any change in management's expectations or any change in the assumptions or circumstances on which such statements are based.