Claimants seeking damages from the Owens Corning Fibreboard asbestos Personal Injury Trust are facing long wait times for their claims, according to lawyers representing them. Some claims submitted twelve months ago have yet to be paid, according to Jimmy Rodgers, a Chattanooga, Tennessee attorney for around 200 claimants. Rodgers said the trust administering the fund is not acting improperly, but that the delay is due to the huge number of people seeking compensation, saying “you can’t place blame on the trust, because they have had to contend with so many claims.” The trust was opened in October of 2006 to handle and pay claims from construction workers, shipbuilders, and others exposed to asbestos by working with or around asbestos-containing insulation products made by the Toledo, Ohio-based Owens Corning, specifically, its Fibreboard subsidiary. Owens-Corning underwent bankruptcy proceedings and as part of the eventual settlement, the trust was created. . The trust is now Owens Corning’s largest shareholder, with about a fourth of the company’s stock. The trust states its disbursements in financial reports filed with the US Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware.
The trustees state that “the ultimate number of asbestos … claims to be filed and the liability for all such claims are not determinable at this time. The net assets available for the payment of claims at Dec. 31, 2007, may or may not be sufficient to meet all future obligations of the trust.” Owens Corning stock has not met projections made at the time of the bankruptcy settlement, leading to concerns that the trust may not have the resources to meet its obligations. A similar trust created by the Johns-Manville Corporation ended up cutting its expected payouts when its stock holdings did not meet projections. Most of the Owens Corning trust payments to date have gone to individuals whose cases against Owens Corning were settled years ago but who weren’t paid because of the firm’s 2000 bankruptcy filing. Only $16 million has been paid to date on newer claims. Except for cases of severe illness, claims are being handled on a first-come, first-serve basis. Rodgers stated that despite the delays, the Owens Corning trust has handled the situation well, citing as an example the creation of an Internet site to facilitate claims submissions. Rogers stated, “by and large, I’m fairly pleased with how it’s operated.”