Judge Removes First Barrier to $500 Million Asbestos Settlement

A federal bankruptcy judge announced that no objections have been filed to a proposal by St. Paul Travelers Companies Inc. that it pay $500 million to victims of asbestos-related diseases on behalf of former client Johns-Manville Corp., an asbestos manufacturer that declared bankruptcy in 1982 as a result of the asbestos-related claims against it.

"There have been no arguments on the adequacy of the half-a-billion dollars," U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Burton Lifland said of the proposed settlement. "A lot of money has been put on the table for people who are deserving. There are never enough funds available for something like this, but nothing's been shown it's not fair or reasonable."

Lifland asked attorneys to submit final papers by July 15.

The proposal calls for approximately $445 million to settle claims filed by Johns-Manville Corp. employees and their families, and $57 million for legal fees. More than 600,000 asbestos-related claims have been filed against Travelers Property Casualty Corp., which merged with St. Paul Companies Inc. in April 2004 to form St. Paul Travelers Companies Inc.

Johns-Manville, which is no longer insured by St. Paul Travelers Companies Inc., bills itself as a "leading manufacturer and marketer of premium-quality building insulation, commercial roofing and specialty products for commercial, industrial and residential applications."

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