There are at least two reasons to request a summary judgment. One is that the facts in the case are not in dispute and it makes no sense to waste time and money on a trial. Another reason is sheer lawyer bravado, an audacious attempt to hornswoggle the judge with an argument that won’t bear scrutiny and a trial that likely would go badly.
A little over a year ago in federal bankruptcy court, the Houston law firm of Williams Kherkher Hart Boundas moved for summary judgment against Garlock Sealing Technologies, arguing that there was “no genuine dispute as to any fact.”
That was a dubious assertion, even for asbestos plaintiff attorneys, since Garlock had accused the firm of making fraudulently inconsistent claims about the origin of a client’s mesothelioma -- an accusation the firm disputed.
Garlock offered a 19-page response to the motion, charging that the firm’s brief “is a misstatement of Texas law and further offers a selective and tilted ‘record’ on which it contends this Court should dismiss claims that Garlock has asserted with every detail possible in a concealment case.”
Last week, Judge George Hodges of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of North Carolina Charlotte Division ruled that the Williams Kherkher Hart Boundas attorneys had withheld evidence while pursuing asbestos claims against Garlock Sealing Technologies. He ordered the establishment of a $125 million bankruptcy trust to satisfy Garlock Sealing Technologies’ asbestos liability, rejecting the law firm’s suggestion of a billion-dollar-plus trust.
Judge Hodges denounced “the effort by some plaintiffs and their lawyers to withhold evidence of exposure to other asbestos products and to delay filing claims against bankrupt defendants’ asbestos trusts until after obtaining recoveries from Garlock.”
While stipulating that “more extensive discovery would show more extensive abuse,” Hodges concluded that “the startling pattern of misrepresentation that has been shown is sufficiently persuasive.”
About that particular fact, Garlock will offer “no genuine dispute.”