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Former Asbestos Workers To Share $145 Million Settlement

April 9, 1986

HOUSTON (AP) _ More than 700 former asbestos workers will share an estimated $145 million as part of a settlement of a lawsuit in which workers blamed manufacturers for their asbestos-related diseases, plaintiffs’ attorneys say.

The settlement ended the first class-action asbestosis trial in the nation, according to Walter Umphrey, who represented 539 of the 741 plaintiffs.

He said the amount is two or three times the national average in such cases. Defense attorney Richard Josephson said the amount was lower, but declined to be specific.

Umphrey said attorneys would meet with U.S. District Judge Robert Parker to determine how the settlement detailed Tuesday will be divided.

Rex Houston, another plaintiffs’ attorney, estimated individual settlements will range from $75,000 to $450,000.

Workers contended their health was damaged or destroyed by their exposure to asbestos products and sued 13 companies, primarily manufacturers of the products. In October, Parker consolidated the hundreds of cases into a class- action suit.

Earlier in the trial, which began March 10, Combustion Engineering, GAF Corp., Nicolet Inc. and Raymark Industries Inc. settled with workers.

The nine defendant companies left were Armstrong World Industries, Owens Corning Fibreglas Corp., Eagle Picher Industries Inc., Pittsburgh Corning Corp., Keene Corp., Celotex Corp., Fibreboard Corp., Owens-Illinois Inc. and Standard Insulators Inc.

Asbestos manufacturers are facing thousands of lawsuits nationwide accusing them of concealing the effects of their product from workers who later suffered from a lung disease called asbestosis, a rare form of cancer linked to asbestos fibers.

Armstrong, Celotex, Owens Corning Fiberglass, Owens Illinois and Fiberboard Corp. were among eight manufacturers who set up an asbestos claims facility called the Wellington Group to aid in the settlement of claims, said Josephson, an attorney for Wellington.

For the group, the key point of the settlement was the establishment of arbitration and mediation procedures to avoid lengthy legal battles, he said.

″(We want) to try to resolve these on the basis of whether somebody really was exposed and whether that person suffers from asbestos-related disease and whether that person is entitled to money,″ he said. ″There’s a whole heck of a lot more that really don’t have it (asbestos disease).″

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