Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is liable for the asbestos insulating products made decades ago by Quigley Corporation, one of its now-bankrupt subsidiaries, based on a New York federal appellate court ruling his week.
Although Pfizer never made any Quigley products, its logo appeared on the advertising and packages that were being sold, a fact that convinced the court to uphold a previous ruling at the district level.
Quigley made several products containing asbestos that were used in the steel industry from the 1940s to the 1970s. One of them was an insulator known as “Insulag,” that was used in high-heat environments.
Quigley Corporation was acquired by Pfizer in 1968 and stopped most of its operations by 1992, filing for bankruptcy in 2004.
More than 160,000 plaintiffs filed asbestos-related claims against Quigley before the bankruptcy protection, and an estimated $430 million was paid out to settle the majority of the claims.
A U.S. Bankruptcy judge originally ruled that the remaining asbestos claims would be barred, but in May of 2011 that ruling was reversed. Although Pfizer appealed that ruling, the federal court this week opened the door even wider for future claims against the drug maker regarding Quigley.
Some of the claims date back to the ’70s. The lengthy latency period of asbestos diseases (10 to 50 years) between exposure to asbestos and the symptoms of mesothelioma have kept those claims relevant.
The case was another blow to the big businesses that have tried to skirt the responsibility for the death and destruction caused by asbestos, which can lead to a number of serious, long-term health issues, including mesothelioma cancer.
Also this week, Minnesota governor Mark Dayton vetoed proposed legislation that would have limited liability claims against companies that merge with, or buy, other companies with past asbestos issues.
The legislation was designed to protect Crown Holdings, the multi-billion dollar packaging company, from future claims related to its 1963 purchase of another company.
Pfizer, meanwhile, reported a $701 million third-quarter charge in 2011 for asbestos litigation related to Quigley, according to Bloomberg.Net.