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MDL AND WEINER PUSHING ASBESTOS CLAIMS RESOLUTION IN RIGHT DIRECTION; PLAINTIFFS ATTORNEYS' CALL FOR REMAND IS 'A GIANT STEP BACKWARD'

MDL AND WEINER PUSHING ASBESTOS CLAIMS RESOLUTION IN RIGHT DIRECTION;

PLAINTIFFS ATTORNEYS' CALL FOR REMAND IS 'A GIANT STEP BACKWARD'
 WASHINGTON, July 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Asbestos defendants today dubbed as an outright and intentional misrepresentation of reality plaintiffs attorneys' claims that the Multidistrict Litigation (MDL), under the direction of U.S. District Judge Charles Weiner, has been ineffective.
 In filings to the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, defendant companies supported Weiner's efforts, stating that, contrary to plaintiffs attorneys' claims, Weiner has made substantial progress over the past year in rationalizing the asbestos litigation morass, streamlining the resolution process and encouraging negotiation over litigation.
 Last July, in a historic effort to begin to define a global solution to the asbestos litigation crisis, the MDL panel transferred some 30,000 asbestos personal injury claims pending in federal courts nationwide to Weiner's Philadelphia courtroom for coordinated pretrial proceedings.
 Charging the MDL process with failure to lessen the backlog of claims, a group of plaintiffs' attorneys last month called for the immediate return of the federal cases to their original courts of jurisdiction.
 "The state of asbestos litigation today has been 20 years in the making. It is absolutely unreasonable to think that in less than a year's time the problem would be resolved," Lawrence Fitzpatrick, spokesman for the MDL Defendants Steering Committee(A), commented. "In fact, we believe their motion is nothing more than an act of financial self-interest to return to a litigation process that benefits no one but the plaintiffs' attorneys themselves -- not the plaintiffs, the defendants or the public.
 "Since the transfer, Judge Weiner has done a Herculean job, facilitating the settlement of tens of thousands of individual claims and laying the groundwork for the resolution of thousands more," Fitzpatrick said. "To return these cases to their original courts now -- without allowing the process developed by Judge Weiner to fully mature -- would constitute a giant step backward in the movement toward a global solution to asbestos litigation in the United States."
 Allegations by plaintiffs' attorneys that very few federal cases have been resolved through the MDL process are highly misleading, according to Fitzpatrick. Asbestos cases typically involve numerous defendants, often as many as 50 or more. Thus, while a case remains technically unresolved until all defendants have settled, even a partially resolved case may represent scores of individual settlements.
 "To say that as few as a dozen cases have been settled is a blatant manipulation of the mechanics of the process and ignores the fact that some defendant companies have settled more than 10,000 claims each through MDL," Fitzpatrick said. "In many instances, this process has produced a marked increase in settlements over pre-MDL efforts."
 According to statements filed by MDL defendants, Judge Weiner has successfully used the MDL proceeding to:
 -- encourage settlement over litigation, promoting coordination of state and federal resolution efforts and urging the establishment of regional and global settlements which would address future claims;
 -- streamline communications, pleadings and motions, creating economies of scale and conserving valuable resources for the compensation of deserving plaintiffs;
 -- prioritize cases to ensure that the claims of the truly sick are addressed before the claims of persons who are unimpaired;
 -- defer punitive damages so as not to jeopardize the availability of funds to compensate future deserving claimants.
 "No one ever said there would be a quick and easy solution to the 100,000 asbestos claims pending across the country -- nor, that all parties would agree on what form such a solution should take," Fitzpatrick said. "What I find most disconcerting, however, is the antagonistic and resistant nature of the plaintiffs' attorneys(B) once they realized Judge Weiner was going to handle the cases before him in a comprehensive and responsible manner."
 (A) The MDL Defendants Steering Committee includes the Center for Claims Resolution (which represents 20 companies, including Armstrong World Industries, Inc., GAF Corporation, National Gypsum and U.S. Gypsum), Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corporation, Owens-Illinois, Inc., W.R. Grace, Pittsburgh-Corning Corp. and Fibreboard Corporation.
 (B) Only nine of 12 attorneys on the MDL Plaintiffs Steering Committee signed the motion for immediate remand.
 -0- 7/27/92
 /CONTACT: Larry Fitzpatrick, 609-520-6800, or Jay Hyde, 202-833-4481, both for the MDL Defendants Steering Committee/ CO: MDL Defendants Steering Committee ST: District of Columbia; Pennsylvania IN: SU:


KD -- DC009 -- 3424 07/27/92 10:29 EDT
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Date:Jul 27, 1992
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