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Pfizer can face liability claims for asbestos products

Collecting compensation for damages relating to a dangerous or faulty product can be a little complex. However, after it has been determined that a product causes harm to people, the manufacturer should be held accountable. In some cases, however, it may not be possible to file a product liability claim if the manufacturing company has gone bankrupt.

This was the case for drugmaker giant Pfizer until recently. In 1968, Pfizer bought a smaller company called Quigley Co. Inc. that manufactured insulation products. The problem, however, was that Quigley was making products that contained asbestos. At one point, the insulation manufacturer was facing more than 160,000 claims that their products had hurt or sickened people.

In 2004, Pfizer worked out a settlement with 80 percent of the claimants and they were given $430 million in settlement payments. Quigley filed for bankruptcy protection shortly after the settlement, which would protect them from having to pay future claims of product liability. Claims were still pending against the company and many wondered who could be held accountable.

Pfizer claimed they should not have to be responsible for the remaining claims. They are not liable for injuries or illnesses that were caused by the asbestos-containing insulation made by Quigley. According to an appeals court, however, the fact that Pfizer allowed Quigley to put the drugmaker's name on their products meant that the products were not protected by the bankruptcy and Pfizer can be held responsible for the dangerous products.

Product liability cases involving asbestos can be tricky. Because asbestos was so commonly used in many materials for so long, it could be difficult to identify the point of exposure. When this is uncovered, it can be challenging to hold a company responsible for any diseases or injuries suffered from asbestos exposure. However, a knowledgeable lawyer who understands asbestos litigation will be able to provide support and guidance.

Source: Reuters, "Court rules Pfizer can face some asbestos suits," Ben Berkowitz, April 10, 2012

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