U.S. Bankruptcy Court Approves $500 Million St Paul Travelers Asbestos-Related Settlement

August 18, 2004

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York has issued an order granting approval of a $500 million settlement of almost all Johns Manville Corp. asbestos-related suits pending against the Travelers property casualty subsidiaries of St Paul Travelers Companies, Inc.

The settlement and court ruling resolves all pending asbestos-related statutory direct actions against Travelers, including Wise v. Travelers and Meninger v. Travelers and bars all future asbestos-related statutory direct actions against Travelers in West Virginia, Massachusetts and other states in which Travelers believes plaintiffs might try to bring such actions. The settlement and court ruling also resolves substantially all similar future, asbestos-related actions against Travelers.

The court-approved settlements will make aggregate funds of up to $445 million available to the more than 600,000 claimants plus up to $57.5 million in legal fees.

Travelers, which merged with St. Paul Cos. in April, insured Manville while it made and sold asbestos from the 1940s to the 1970s.

The decision by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Burton R. Lifland approves an agreement reached between Travelers and the plaintiffs in May after more than two years of negotiations mediated by former N.Y. Gov. Mario Cuomo.

Lifland said the Travelers settlement is “fair and adequate.”

Johns-Manville filed for bankruptcy in 1982 as a result of asbestos claims. Berkshire Hathaway bought the firm in 2001 but the bankruptcy court is handling all claims filed against Johns-Manville before its bankruptcy.

The court order is subject to appeal, which, if taken, must be filed within 10 days.

On November 21, 2003 and March 15, 2004, Travelers entered into a settlement of asbestos claims, including purported class actions in West Virginia and elsewhere. The statutory-based actions alleged Travelers violated state insurance unfair claim and trade practices statutes while handling asbestos claims. On May 24, 2004, St. Paul Travelers announced that Travelers had entered into a settlement of substantially all the common law asbestos-related direct actions. The common-law asbestos actions alleged, among other things, a general, non-statutory duty to disclose to the public the hazards of asbestos. Both settlements were subject to final court approval.

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