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Georgine v. Amchem Products, Inc.

    Brief Fact Summary.

    The court reviewed a proposed settlement of a class action suit for asbestos-related injuries or wrongful deaths to determine whether to enter a final class certification under Rule 23, and to approve the settlement negotiated on behalf of the class

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    An impermissible conflict of interest is not established by the simultaneous representation of present and future claimants by counsel in a class action suit.

    Facts.

    A class of persons exposed to the asbestos products of twenty defendant companies filed a complaint, and an answer and a proposed settlement were filed with the court.  Some members of the proposed class objected to the certification of the class, claiming they were not adequately represented, and to the fairness of the settlement.  The court reviewed the proposed settlement and considered the objectors’ claims of collusion among class counsel.

    Issue.

    Is an impermissible conflict of interest established by the simultaneous representation of present and future claimants by counsel in a class action suit?

    Held.

    (Reed, J.)  No.  An impermissible conflict of interest is not established by the simultaneous representation of present and future claimants by counsel in a class action suit.  The settlement terms are fair and reasonable to the members of the class.  It is not a conflict of interest for an attorney to represent two groups of clients with similar claims against the same defendant.  Class counsels were highly respected for their skills and experience in asbestos litigation, and there was no suggestion in the comprehensive discovery and litigated record that there was any atmosphere of collusion.  Both sides bargained vigorously and at arm’s-length.  The settlement amounts were generally consistent with historical settlement averages for comparable settlements, were not inflated, and were not the product of collusion.  Affirmed

    Discussion.

    In this case, the court discussed the inadequacy of the present tort system to deal with this kind of litigation.  Such settlements could avoid costly and time-consuming litigation.  The claim procedures under the settlement are basically non-adversarial.


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