Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Pittsburgh Corning Asbestos Woes Continue as Company Tries to Emerge from Bankruptcy

Last week, a federal bankruptcy judge approved a plan that would allow asbestos-litigation embattled Pittsburgh Corning Inc. to emerge from bankruptcy, but experts say it’s likely that re-emergence will be further delayed, even after 13 years.

According to an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, attorneys believe that insurance companies for Pittsburgh Corning will appeal the plan, further delaying the formation of a $3.5 billion trust that will serve to compensate those harmed by the asbestos-containing products produced by the company in the past, including a widely-used pipe insulation known as Unibestos, produced from 1964 until 1972. Pittsburgh Corning’s two parent companies, Corning Inc. and PPG Industries, will each eventually contribute millions of dollars to the trust.

But none of this is unusual, says James Restivo, an attorney with Reed Smith who is part of a team representing Pittsburgh Corning in the bankruptcy proceedings. It often takes this long for a case to progress to this point, he notes, though it’s sad for those awaiting compensation for their injuries. He and others believe the case will extend into 2014.

So far, the company has been named in about 400,000 asbestos-related lawsuits. They settled about half of those before declaring bankruptcy in 2000, noting that any remaining cases could deplete their assets. Most of the claims pertain to the Unibestos product, which was manufactured at plants in Tyler, Texas, and Port Allegany, Pennsylvania. The Texas plant was closed by OSHA in 1972 after it was deemed to be “extremely hazardous.”

Bankruptcy really hasn’t affected Pittsburgh Corning’s day-to-day operations. The company, now best known for manufacturing glass block windows, still generates about $300 million in revenue each year and employs some 1,500 workers in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Asbestos, which can cause mesothelioma cancer, is no longer a component in its products.


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