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Argentinians invoke 1853 treaty in Delaware asbestos suit
8/5/2009 9:45 AM By SteveKorris
WILMINGTON, Del. - Three men from Argentina accusingchemical maker DuPont of exposing them to asbestos in Argentina have invoked American jurisdiction pursuant to a treaty thatPresident Franklin Pierce signed in 1853.
The eighth article of the Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation betweenArgentina and theUnited States promises free and open access to each other's courts.
Wilmington lawyer ThomasCrumplar seeks to test the strength of that pledge.
In June he suedDuPont inNew CastleCounty courthouse atWilmington on behalf ofCeferino Ramirez,CristianDematei and Juan CarlosLaborda.
According to the complaints they worked for DuPont atMercedes,Argentina.
According to the complaints Ramirez was born in 1932,DeMatei was born in 1973, andLaborda was born in 1940.
According to the complaints Ramirez worked atMercedes from 1961 to 1993,DeMatei from 1991 to 2002, andLaborda from 1968 to 1980.
Crumplar wrote that recovery would be predicated on substantive law ofArgentina,Delaware, or both, "or such law as the court holds to be applicable."
Each complaint repeated the same allegations, and each repeated a sentence that started but never finished.
"Theseasbestos containing materials being used on the land of premises defendant of which the defendant knew or should have known and/or had reason, to know of, and had a duty under the circumstances to inspect, warn, make safe or otherwise remedy,"Crumplar wrote.
The complaints identified JoeSatterley ofLouisville,Ky., as "of counsel."
OtherArgentinians have already employed the treaty of 1853 to plant their flag in American courts.
WilmingtonDelaware – Asbestos Company – Asbestos Bankruptcy Claims
Asbestos claims lead RPM Int'l units to bankruptcy
Tue Jun 1, 2010 11:42am EDT
* RPM units files for bankruptcy due to asbestos claims
* More than 10,000 asbestos lawsuits filed
* Shares of RPM slip 0.8 percent
By Tom Hals
WILMINGTON,Delaware., June 1 (Reuters) - Subsidiaries of RPM International Inc (RPM.N) filed for bankruptcy as the chemical company seeks to resolve thousands of asbestos-related lawsuits, according to court documents.
The parent company also asked the bankruptcy court for an injunction to prevent it from becoming a target of the plaintiffs who broughtasbestos lawsuits against the bankrupt subsidiaries, according to court documents filed on Monday.
The bankrupt subsidiaries, Specialty Products Holding Corp and Bondex International Inc, are planning to use Chapter 11 to establish a trust for the payment of asbestos-related claims.
Special Products Holding is a direct parent to operating companies that produce coatings and finishings, including DayGlo Color Corp, the world's largest producer of daylight florescent pigments.
The operating companies and RPM International are not part of the bankruptcy.
The two subsidiaries also want a permanent injunction from any further asbestos claims due to products they made or sold.
"This action has been taken to once and for all resolve the asbestos-related Bondex legacy liability," said Frank Sullivan, RPM's chairman and chief executive officer, in a statement.
Many of the alleged asbestosliabilities, that are at the heart of more than 10,000 lawsuits against the bankrupt subsidiaries, stem from Reardon Co, which was acquired in 1966. Reardon sold home patch and repair products that contained asbestos until 1977, and other products containing asbestos into the 1980s.
The bankrupt subsidiaries also sold other products containing asbestos until 1972.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was once widely used in manufacturing. It has been banned by theU.S. government after it was proven to cause cancer, often in people who were exposed by breathing in asbestos particles.
The bankrupt subsidiaries had fiscal year 2009 revenues of $329 million and $19 million of pretax income, which is less than 11 percent of RPM's consolidated total.
Until 2003, insurance covered 90 percent of the asbestos-related costs, according to court documents. Since then, insurers have claimed exhaustion and stopped making payments.
In 2005 to 2009, the bankrupt subsidiaries have incurred asbestos costs between $60 million and $82 million annually.
Asbestos-related claims have forced many companies into bankruptcy.
Specialty chemical makers W.R. Grace & Co (GRA.N), for example, has been operating in Chapter 11 since 2001. Babcock & Wilcox used bankruptcy to establish an asbestos trust that has been accepting claims since 2006.
Several attorneys who have brought lawsuits against Bondex did not immediately return calls for comment.
Shares of RPM International were down 0.8 percent at $19.66 in late morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
The case is In re Specialty Products Holding Corp, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware, No. 10-11780. (Reporting by Tom Hals; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)