Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court denied a bid for certiorari by Pfizer Inc. Pfizer sought to have the Court hear its argument as to why a bankruptcy injunction barring asbestos personal injury cases against a defunct Pfizer subsidiary should be reinstated. The Supreme Court's refusal to review the ruling of the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, means that state court lawsuits filed against Pfizer can proceed.
In 1968, Pfizer acquired Quigley Co. Inc, a former manufacturer of insulation and other products for the steel industry. Subsequent to the acquisition some of Quigley's asbestos-containing products began to include Pfizer's name and trademark. Facing 160,000 asbestos lawsuits (for Quigley and Pfizer) in 2004 Quiglely filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and an injunction enjoining most of the asbestos claims.
Enter the Law Offices of Peter Angelos. Having filed asbestoslawsuits against Pfizer in Pennsylvania in 1999, Mr. Angelos moved for summary judgment under a theory the "apparent manufacturer." Pfizer filed a motion in the Bankruptcy Court to enforce the injunction barring lawsuits and the bankruptcy court granted Pfizer's motion. But the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York reversed the ruling and found that"Pfizer's liability arises out of its sponsorship of a defective product, not its corporate affiliation." In essence, the injunction did not bar claims based on Pfizer's name being on Quigley's asbestos containing products, and thus the Angelos firm has its ticket to pursue its personal injury claims in Pennsylvania State Courts. This was affirmed by the Second Circuit.
What this means:
Yesterday's denial of certiorari by the U.S. Supreme Court is now the end of the line for Pfizer's attempt to halt the litigation. Onward it goes. In an era of conservatism from the U.S. Supreme Court, this ruling provides a glimmer of hope for victims of asbestos exposure suffering from lung cancer or mesothelioma. Although the action will be litigated in Pennsylvania, the ruling is good news for allvictims of asbestos exposure and their families, including those from Washington State, Oregon and all of the Pacific Northwest.