Set­tle­ment brings end to ma­jor as­bestos case

Name­sake for law­suit filed in 1990 didn’t live to see con­clu­sion

Houston Chronicle - - CITY | STATE - By Phoebe Suy STAFF WRITER [email protected]­mon­tenter­

Adella Cimino, name­sake for a land­mark class-ac­tion law­suit filed nearly three decades ago on be­half of as­bestos vic­tims across South­east Texas and south­west­ern Louisiana, did not live to see the case to con­clu­sion.

The Port Arthur na­tive and her late hus­band, Claude, were among the 2,288 South­east Texas re­fin­ery, chem­i­cal plant and ship­yard work­ers ex­posed to the toxic min­eral and di­ag­nosed with as­bestos-re­lated dis­eases be­tween 1985 and 1987.

One of the lead at­tor­neys said Fri­day that the case, one of the long­est-run­ning in U.S. civil lit­i­ga­tion his­tory, is now fully set­tled and the money is ready to be dis­trib­uted.

Cimino and her hus­band won’t see any of it, how­ever. She died in Septem­ber 2017, just more than a year be­fore a three-judge ar­bi­tra­tion panel in Oc­to­ber awarded the work­ers and their rel­a­tives $140 mil­lion. That award, plus an ear­lier $38 mil­lion set­tle­ment in the Cimino v. Ray­mark In­dus­tries case, bring the to­tal set­tle­ment to $178 mil­lion.

Claude Cimino died in Septem­ber 2005. At­tor­ney Bryan Blevins of Beau­mont’s Provost Um­phrey Law Firm said only about 70 of the thou­sands of work­ers who filed suit are still liv­ing.

“It’s frus­trat­ing be­cause Dad waited for his money, then Mom waited for Dad’s money,” Blevins said in a tele­phone in­ter­view. “They’re gone now and didn’t have the com­fort of know­ing how it all ended.”

Mon­e­tary dam­ages will be dis­trib­uted to sur­viv­ing fam­ily mem­bers and heirs, Blevins said.

The Cimi­nos, who worked at the Tex­aco re­fin­ery, suf­fered from pul­monary as­besto­sis, a dis­ease that causes scar­ring in the lungs and im­pairs breath­ing. It is un­clear from their obit­u­ar­ies if they died of the as­bestos-re­lated ill­ness.

Fam­ily mem­bers could not be reached for com­ment on Fri­day.

Fam­i­lies like the Cimi­nos have been com­pen­sated by some of the 15 as­bestos man­u­fac­tur­ers that have set­tled since the law­suit was filed in 1990.

They waited through more than 100 days of trial, 10 years of mo­tions, trans­fers and ap­peals and an­other 16 years be­fore they could file claims against the last de­fen­dant, the now-bank­rupt Pitts­burgh Corn­ing Corp., a man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany whose in­su­la­tion prod­ucts con­tained as­bestos.

Pitts­burgh Corn­ing’s bank­ruptcy was “one of the long­est bank­rupt­cies in mod­ern era,” Blevins said.

Still, he called the end re­sult “noth­ing short of ex­tra­or­di­nary.”

“We’re thank­ful we were able to bring this to a close,” Blevins said. “This was a long road to fight.”

Beau­mont’s Glen Mor­gan of Reaud, Mor­gan & Quinn and Joseph Rice of Mot­ley Rice were also in­volved the decades-long bat­tle which be­gan around the time as­bestos lit­i­ga­tion “picked up ex­po­nen­tially.”

“Over time, those dan­gers be­came more and more aware” and the scope of the as­bestos prob­lem “more widely known,” Blevins said, es­ti­mat­ing that about 28 mil­lion Amer­i­cans have been ex­posed to “dan­ger­ous lev­els” of the once-wide­spread ma­te­rial.

Each of the vic­tims “shared a com­mon work ex­pe­ri­ence” at 22 re­finer­ies, chem­i­cal plants and ship­yards in South­east Texas and south­west­ern Louisiana, he said.

He es­ti­mated that a to­tal of about $30 bil­lion in trusts has been set aside to com­pen­sate as­bestos dis­ease vic­tims.

Of the dozens of as­bestos trusts, Pitts­burgh Corn­ing’s is the largest formed in the last 20 years, Blevins said. The na­tional trust starts with $4 bil­lion in as­sets in an­tic­i­pa­tion of about 800,000 claims.

Blevins said the firm has been in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the spouses, chil­dren and grand­chil­dren of as­bestos dis­ease vic­tims.

Get­ting to this point has been “a long road to fight,” he said.

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