Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Pfizer sued regarding asbestos-related claim

Pfizer Inc., a company that usually finds itself as being sued for products liability claims regarding possible defective drugs and medications, has now found itself under legal scrutiny for its involvement in the manufacturing of asbestos-containing products. Pfizer at one time was the parent company for a subsidiary called Quigley Co. Quigley declared bankruptcy and halted most operations back in 1992.

Quigley manufactured a variety of asbestos containing products from the 1940s until the 1970s. Pfizer acquired the company in 1968, and Pfizer now claims that the bankruptcy proceedings of Quigley prevent the parent company from being sued.

Pfizer was first sued in this regard in Pennsylvania state courts back in 1999. Though a federal court maintained that claims against Pfizer could go forward, Pfizer continues to insist that it played no major role in the making or selling of Quigley products. This matter will likely now be heard at the U.S. Supreme Court.

That such a matter would even be considered by the highest court demonstrates just how complex asbestos-related lawsuits have become. Industries have become frightened by the sheer size of verdicts returned by juries in asbestos cases and will make almost any legal maneuver to avoid liability.

Because asbestos-related matters often involve exposure to this substance that goes back 30 or 40 years, the lawsuits concern defendants that are generally large corporations - many now defunct, and because the exposure can involve so many different sources, the handling of these cases is generally best accomplished by attorneys experienced in prosecuting asbestos companies.

While parent companies are claiming that they are not responsible for the actions of subsidiaries, a large number of individuals exposed to the asbestos are suffering from life threatening lung ailments. Companies need to be held accountable for this.

Source: Bloomberg, "Pfizer Gets High Court Inquiry on Asbestos Suit Shield," by Greg Stohr, Jan. 14, 2013

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