In the last five years, Monroe Rubber and Gasket — a family business in Monroe, Louisiana — has been sued in more than 100 asbestos suits by over 2000 plaintiffs. More than a decade ago, the business ordered a material containing encapsulated asbestos for customers who requested it. Encapsulated asbestos fibers are treated with a coating intended to prevent airborne release. The materials Monroe Rubber and Gasket handled are still legal, and tests showed that no harmful dust had been released into the air.
But that did not stop Monroe Rubber and Gasket from being sued. “I didn’t quite understand why we were receiving these [lawsuits] based on what we do here,” said owner Mike Carter.
Over the past five years, asbestos class action and mass action lawsuits have become notorious for fraud and abuse. Judges and others have exposed scams by which plaintiffs’ lawyers conduct assembly line mass medical screenings, lump hundreds of healthy people into a class with only a few sick plaintiffs, and sometimes falsify medical diagnoses. A number of fraudulent medical screeners have even been banned from work on these cases.
Now that many companies responsible for asbestos are bankrupt, plaintiffs’ lawyers are filing lawsuits against businesses like Monroe Rubber and Gasket that neither produced nor were end-users of asbestos products.
Like in many asbestos suits, nearly all of the people claiming that they were injured by Monroe Rubber and Gasket are healthy. Plaintiffs’ lawyers often bundle claims from a few asbestosis/mesothelioma patients with many other healthy plaintiffs in order to leverage greater settlements.
Mike Kosik, the manager of Monroe Rubber and Gasket, said, “We’re all sympathetic to the people who actually have the disease. The ones that we don’t like are the ones that, ‘OK, I was around it. Put my name on the list. Get me whatever you can.’”
Carter’s business employs dozens of people, including several of his family members and close friends. If Monroe Rubber and Gasket continues to accrue legal costs, all of them will lose their jobs. “This could take us out of business,” said Carter. “It’s just kind of sad because I’ve got a group of people here that work with me. And it’s their livelihoods on the line.”
“If just one of these lawsuits do get through, we’ll all be without a job.”