You are here
Pinchin Group Helps Recover $25 Million in Asbestos Damages for 38 Canadian Building Owners
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Canadian Environmental Company Helps 38 Canadian Building Owners Recover Unprecedented $25 million (US) in Damages Against US Asbestos Manufacturer
The Pinchin Group of Companies, which includes Pinchin Environmental Ltd, PHH ARC Environmental Ltd, Pinchin LeBlanc Environmental Ltd, and Le Groupe Gesfor Poirier is a key player in an unusual, 8-year legal battle against Federal Mogul, a bankrupt manufacturer of Limpet® asbestos fireproofing material.
November 1, 2011 – In a recent landmark decision in a US courtroom, Canadians claiming property damage against a bankrupt asbestos manufacturer will receive approximately $25 million in damages, about 70 per cent of the total $36 million awarded in the class action suit. The balance of the award went to US claimants.
There are several unusual features about this case, beyond the fact that Canadian claimants received the lions’ share of an American class action suit, a suit that more than likely would have failed had it been presented in a Canadian court. The few suits filed in Canada over asbestos property damage have generally been unsuccessful based on statutes of ultimate limitation or differences in liability law between Canada and the US (where these suits have been very successful). What is also unusual is that the suit was originally instigated not by the individual Canadian building owners but by the Pinchin Group of Companies, a Canadian environmental and health and safety services firm.
The Pinchin Group of Companies, due to their longstanding and pioneering work in asbestos legislation and remediation, (Dr. Don Pinchin, the company founder, is well known for his seminal 1983 Ontario Royal Commission report on asbestos), closely followed the large number of bankruptcies of American asbestos manufacturers in the early 2000s. One of those companies, Federal Mogul, manufactured Limpet® fireproofing material which had widespread use in Canadian buildings.
Recognizing that Canadians may have been entitled to damages, The Pinchin Group of Companies contacted Speights and Runyan, a South Carolina legal firm with experience in US class action asbestos suits, and they agreed to file a claim on behalf of Canadian claimants. The Pinchin Group of Companies was responsible for performing all Canadian field work and research necessary to establish the claims.
After months of combing through old files, contacting clients and reviewing building blueprints, The Pinchin Group of Companies employees identified over 200 buildings that contained Limpet®. Possible claimants included the federal and provincial governments, private developers, universities, colleges and school boards, an airport, several municipal transit commissions and some industrial clients and utilities. Surprisingly, despite the fact that there was no cost to them, some potential claimants declined to participate in the suit. Ultimately, by 2003, Speights and Runyan and Pinchin represented 38 Canadian clients who owned 106 eligible buildings. As of November 2011, 93 of these claims have been approved, with awards ranging from $14,000 to over $3 million. Surprisingly only a small fraction of the US claims (less than 10%) were successful.
The success of the Canadian claims is due to the accurate, detailed information obtained on each claim by the Pinchin Group and the more widespread use of Limpet® in Canadian steel framed buildings.
"We weren’t at all sure at the start if our effort would be useful for our clients or if the US legal system would recognize Canadian claims to the extent that it obviously has with this settlement. However we have been able to deliver this settlement to our clients with no financial risk to them. Although the amount does not cover the whole cost of removal, it is not insignificant to owners who have had to bear the cost of asbestos abatement." says Dr. Don Pinchin.
Given the mounting health and financial toll that asbestos-containing materials have caused in Canada, this is a small but significant victory for Canadian owners of buildings containing asbestos. Many buildings built before the mid-70s contain friable asbestos-containing materials. Provincial regulations require owners to implement asbestos control and abatement programs for both friable and non-friable asbestos which was widely used to the mid 1980s.
For more information or a comment or for an expert’s comment on the current state of asbestos legislation as it pertains to buildings in Canada, please contact Pinchin Environmental at 1.855.PINCHIN (746-2446) or via our General Contact Form.