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Owens Corning to pay 5.2 billion-dollar asbestos settlement

May 10, 2006 | AFP

Building products maker Owens Corning has agreed to a 5.2 billion-dollar settlement of long-running claims for illnesses linked to asbestos, a lawyer in the case said Wednesday.

The deal is likely to be the biggest asbestos settlement in history, according to a lawyer who was appointed to represent plaintiffs after Owens Corning filed for bankruptcy protection in 2000.

Owens Corning could not immediately be reached for comment.

The agreement calls for the Ohio-based company to make an initial cash payment of 2.9 billion dollars in cash into a trust for asbestos victims. A further payment of 1.39 billion dollars would be made later this year and 28.6 million shares of equity in the reorganized company would be included as well.

The value of these payments and equity totals in excess of 5.2 billion dollars, and would allow Owens Corning to emerge from bankruptcy without any liability for asbestos claims, the lawyer said.

"The path to justice for victims of asbestos cancer and asbestos poisoning by Owens Corning has been a long and difficult one. Although nothing can ever repair the loss of lives that has occurred, today's settlement represents a fair resolution for both the victims and Owens Corning," said teh plantiffs attorney.

"Although we are pleased with the outcome of this settlement, it is an appropriate time to remember that countless lives were lost or destroyed as a result of the needless use of asbestos containing products."

Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, was used until the mid-1970s in a variety of products, including fireproofing, insulation and car brakes, but was found to be a major cause of mesothelioma, a cancer of a membrane in the chest, and asbestosis, a progressive scarring of the lungs that can cause fatal breathing problems.

Between 1940 and 1980 more than 27.5 million workers were exposed to the substance and asbestos related ailments currently affect tens of thousands of US families.

Experts say that because asbestosis and mesothelioma both have long latency periods before the diseases surface, millions more people may yet fall ill.

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