Blog Archives

N.J. man sentenced for lying about church asbestos removal

By Matt Gray, NJ.com

Judges_GavelA Voorhees man was sentenced to one year and a day in prison Tuesday for claiming he had removed asbestos from a former church when he never actually did the work, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Ronen Bakshi, 54, submitted false documents to the City of Philadelphia’s Air Management Services office in connection with a project to remove asbestos-containing material from a former church at 1133 Spring Garden St.

Bakshi billed the non-profit owner of the property for work he never performed, authorities said. Read more

Jury awards Oklahoma man $6 million in asbestos lawsuit

By Richard Mize, http://newsok.com/

michealGalierA Moore man who sued more than a dozen companies for what he described as decades of negligent workplace exposure to asbestos prevailed against two of them for a judgment of $6 million in a jury trial in Oklahoma County District Court.

Michael D. Galier, 51, filed the product liability lawsuit in 2012 after he was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. A jury found for him in his claims against Murco Wall Products of Fort Worth, Texas, and Welco Manufacturing Co. of North Kansas City, Mo.

The jury found a third defendant, Red Devil Inc. in Tulsa, not liable. Judge Bryan C. Dixon dismissed Oklahoma City’s M-D Building Products Inc., formerly Macklanburg-Duncan, from the suit last year but did not bar Galier from filing another suit on the same claims.

Jurors awarded no punitive damages in the case, which was decided May 18.

Galier, who owns and maintains rent houses, referred questions to attorney Jessica Dean of the Dallas law firm Dean Omar Branham.

Dean said asbestos lawsuits rarely go to a verdict. Her response to the success of this rare case?

“Grateful,” Dean said. “The jury was thoughtful and attentive in a case that lasted over two weeks. The company lawyers had more lawyers and resources and argued everything to muddy the issues. We focused on the central issue: Mike worked in home construction for years where these companies supplied asbestos products and did so when they were fully aware that those using the products and their families were at real risk of dying from cancer.” Read more

W.Va. Senate unanimously passes asbestos trust claims act

By Chris Dickerson, http://legalnewsline.com/

The West Virginia Senate on Friday unanimously passed Senate Bill 411, creating the Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Claims Transparency Act and the Asbestos and Silica Claims Priorities Act.

The bill, which was sponsored by Kanawha County Republican Senator Tom Takubo, establishes legal standards and procedures for the handling of certain asbestos and silica claims. Additionally, the bill establishes medical criteria procedures, statute of limitations standards, and requires disclosure of existing and potential asbestos bankruptcy trust claims.Asbestos Tape

“As a pulmonary doctor, I’m pleased that the Senate voted today with full bipartisan support to protect funds for West Virginians who are affected by asbestos-related injuries,” Takubo said. “We must ensure funds are healthy five to 10 years from now to help pay for medical bills and family expenses, and this legislation will allow us to do that.”

Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson), Senator Ryan Ferns (R-Ohio), Senator Ed Gaunch (R-Kanawha) and Senator Jeff Mullins (R-Raleigh) also were sponsors of the bill.

“This bill would promote honesty in litigation and help juries reach fully informed decisions as to the cause of a person’s asbestos-related disease,” Carmichael said. “Other states have laws similar to this one, including our neighboring state, Ohio. Read more

State official fired after improper asbestos cleanup


BY Jordan Schrader, http://www.thenewstribune.com

prison

The state has fired the supervisor of an inmate work crew that used shoddy and potentially dangerous work practices in cleaning up asbestos, records show.

The Department of Corrections earlier paid a more than $70,000 fine and closed down its asbestos abatement program.

The agency deployed a crew of about eight male inmates from Cedar Creek Corrections Center in Littlerock in June 2013 to remove and dispose of 4,000 square feet of old vinyl floor tiles and adhesive in a dining area of the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Purdy.

In charge was Gary L. Baldwin, the head of the asbestos program. Baldwin is a 19-year veteran of the agency with 15 years as a certified asbestos supervisor and a clean record of performance evaluations.

At times, the inmates didn’t wear proper protective equipment or soak the dry material in water to keep dust out of the air. The crew continued working even after realizing the air-circulation system couldn’t be turned off, and it missed a spot while putting up a barrier around the dining area.

“Your actions potentially placed offenders, employees, and yourself at risk of life threatening diseases and death, as well as placed the agency at an enormous risk of future liability,” Danielle Armbruster, assistant director of DOC’s Correctional Industries, wrote in a letter dismissing Baldwin.

The agency provided the April 15 letter in response to a records request.

Baldwin is appealing the decision, the agency said. Attempts to reach him last week were unsuccessful.

When questioned by investigators, he alternately described what was done as common practice and blamed inmates for failing to follow procedures they had been taught.

Haddonfield lawyer admits to doctoring asbestos suits in N.Y. to increase business

By Jessica Beym, South Jersey Times

Judges_GavelA former attorney in the Haddonfield office of a firm specializing in toxic tort litigation today admitted that he falsified defendants’ names in more than 100 asbestos suits filed in New York State courts in order to increase business and his standing in the firm, according to U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman.

Arobert C. Tonogbanua, 44, of Sicklerville pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Noel L. Hillman in Camden federal court to one count of wire fraud.

Authorities said Tonogbanua admitted that he fraudulently inserted the names of his former law firm’s clients into legitimately filed asbestos suits and charged the clients more than $1 million in attorney’s fees, costs and settlements to defend them.

Tonogbanua admitted that, unbeknownst to anyone else at the firm, he forwarded those fraudulently altered complaints to the firm’s clients, their representatives and insurance companies.

Authorities estimate that Tonogbanua inserted his firm’s clients’ names into more than 100 lawsuits, resulting in the generation of more than $1 million in fraudulent fees, costs and settlements. Tonogbanua is said to have personally benefitted from the scheme through bonuses and increased compensation. Read More

Berkshire Hathaway subsidiaries deny, delay asbestos, hazard claims, suits, insiders allege

By Mark Greenblatt, Scripps News

 

For months, mysterious white flakes and construction dust fell on Nancy Lopez’s desk in the Jackson County Courthouse in Kansas City, Mo.

No question the debris was worse after renovation crews worked the weekend. But really, the mess was getting out of hand. On that Monday in 1983, Lopez grabbed a rag and started dusting.

The impeccably dressed young administrative assistant finished tidying her office and set to work. Unknowingly, she had brushed off her desk, into the air and into her lungs deadly asbestos fibers.

Those tiny fibers stayed with Lopez for decades, and, in 2009, at age 54, she learned she was dying from mesothelioma, an asbestos-caused cancer. She sued the construction company and the county for negligence and punitive damages.

Lopez didn’t realize her suit would eventually pit her against the empire built by acclaimed investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. of Omaha, Neb., has become one of the most powerful forces in asbestos and pollution litigation in the world.

Berkshire’s reach has grown so vast that if you or a loved one files an asbestos- or pollution-related lawsuit in America, like Lopez, you’re likely to encounter a Berkshire subsidiary.

Scripps interviewed more than 20 sources — some confidential — reviewed dozens of lawsuits and spoke with former insiders, who all allege the Berkshire-owned companies that handle its asbestos and pollution policies — National Indemnity Co. and Resolute Management Inc. — wrongfully delay or deny compensation to cancer victims and others to boost Berkshire’s profits. In multiple cases, courts and arbitrators have ruled that the Berkshire subsidiaries’ tactics have been in “bad faith” or intentional.

Through 25 known deals, insurers like American Insurance Group, CNA Financial Corp. and Lloyd’s of London have paid Berkshire to assume their risk for tens of billions of dollars in future asbestos and pollution claims. Read More

Contractor charged with illegal dumping

A Charleston contractor whose company tears down buildings is facing criminal prosecution for allegedly turning two of his properties into illegal dump sites.

Rodney D. Loftis Sr. is scheduled to go to trial next month on charges that he violated two cease and desist orders from the state Department of Environmental Protection and created open dumps on Woodward Drive and Northfield Road without DEP permission.

Court documents indicate that investigators found chrysotile, a kind of asbestos, at both sites…

Full story at The Charleston Gazette