“That's what you are, but what am I?”
You might expect a lame remark like that to be employed as a retort by an underage antagonist on an elementary school playground or a superannuated adolescent in a Pee Wee Herman movie, but not as a comeback from mature counsel in a courtroom.
Surely no lawyer could be childish enough to actually say that, or foolish enough to think it might consternate an opponent or sway a judge.
Nevertheless, that's essentially the response made by attorneys for Dallas asbestos firm Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett, one of five plaintiffs firms facing racketeering lawsuits from Garlock Sealing Technologies.
Their counterclaim in the RICO suit: We didn't engage in racketeering. Garlock did.
Early last year, federal bankruptcy Judge George Hodges ruled that plaintiffs attorneys from the Houston law firm of Williams Kherkher Hart Boundas had engaged in unethical practices to maximize recovery against Garlock.
Judge Hodges ordered the establishment of a $125 million bankruptcy trust to satisfy Garlock’s asbestos liability, rejecting the law firm’s suggestion of a billion-dollar-plus trust. He denounced “the effort by some plaintiffs and their lawyers to withhold evidence of exposure to other asbestos products and to delay filing claims against bankrupt defendants’ asbestos trusts until after obtaining recoveries from Garlock.”
The day before that verdict was delivered, Garlock filed suits against five asbestos law firms, three of which have offices in Dallas: Waters & Kraus, Stanley-Iola, and Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett.
Simon Greenstone attorneys tried, unsuccessfully, to invoke a statute of limitations and have the case against them dismissed – not because the charge was false, but simply because Garlock had waited too long to file.
That didn't work, so now they're trying this brilliant new tactic: That's what you are, but what am I?