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Asbestos suits: a small business problem, too



Much coverage of the asbestos debacle has focused on the collapse of very large firms such as Owens-Corning, Babcock & Wilcox, Armstrong World Industries and so on. However, many small firms without particularly deep pockets get entangled too. In Gulfport, Miss., it was reported last year that 40-employee Phillips Building Supply "is a defendant in more than 39 lawsuits" over asbestos, silica and allegedly not-protective-enough face masks. "Bill Hough, president of Phillips, said trial lawyers sued his company along with [bigger] corporations simply to keep the cases in state courts, which have been more apt to award large monetary verdicts than federal courts." (Tom Wilemon, "Small businesses in lawsuit crossfire", Biloxi Sun-Herald, Jun. 17, 2003). Among not-so-big manufacturers affected has been Vermont's Rutland Fire Clay Company, maker of fireplace supplies and joint compound, driven to the bankruptcy courts in 1999 after 116 years in business.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy
rmangual@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

 

Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.