Bestwall bankruptcy judge holds asbestos plaintiffs in contempt for failing to submit questionnaires
CHARLOTTE – Bankruptcy Judge Laura Beyer held 2,140 asbestos plaintiffs in contempt on Feb. 10, and gave them a week to answer questions of Georgia Pacific entity Bestwall.
Beyer set a hearing Feb. 24, to deal with those who haven’t complied.
She found Bestwall has been and continues to be harmed.
She named every subject of her order and their firms.
John Simmons’s firm in Alton represented 457.
Shrader, a Texas firm active in Madison County, represented 409.
Maune Raichle of St. Louis represented 76.
The Gori firm of Edwardsville represented 71.
The O’Brien firm of St. Louis represented 30.
SWMW of Edwardsville represented 20.
In Chicago, Cooney and Conway had 346 clients on the list.
In New York, Weitz and Luxenberg had 219.
Beyer approved the questionnaires last year, finding them relevant to Bestwall’s future asbestos liabilities.
Bestwall persuaded her that she shouldn’t estimate future settlements on the basis of past settlements because fraud inflated past settlements.
Bestwall claimed some plaintiffs alleged one set of exposures in civil courts and another set of exposures in private bankruptcy trusts.
Beyer sent questionnaires to firms rather than clients, finding clients would probably prefer that.
She set a deadline last July 26, but answers came slowly.
Maune Raichle and other firms challenged her order in Southern Illinois district court, but the other firms quickly backed out when Beyer warned hem.
Maune Raichle lost the Illinois case and Beyer imposed a $400,000 sanction on the firm to cover Bestwall’s $400,000 legal bill.
Beyer wrote in her current order that civil contempt is an appropriate sanction for violating a discovery order.
She wrote that her questionnaire order was a valid decree.