Pfizer Gets High Court Inquiry on Asbestos Suit Shield

The U.S. Supreme Court signaled interest in Pfizer Inc.’s bid for a shield from some asbestos lawsuits connected to its Quigley Co. subsidiary, a bankrupt unit that stopped most operations in 1992.

The justices today asked the Obama administration for advice on Pfizer’s appeal of a ruling that opened the New York-based drugmaker to some claims related to Quigley. That company made asbestos-containing products for the steel industry from the 1940s to the 1970s. Pfizer acquired Quigley in 1968. Asbestos, once widely used an insulator, was later shown to cause cancer.

Pfizer, the world’s largest drugmaker, contends that Quigley’s bankruptcy proceedings insulate the parent company from suits filed by the Baltimore law firm of Peter Angelos. The firm began suing Pfizer in Pennsylvania state courts in 1999, saying the company was legally responsible for some claims because its logo appeared on Quigley products.

Pfizer says it played no role in making or selling the Quigley products. A federal appeals court in New York said the claims against Pfizer could go forward.

The Supreme Court case is Pfizer v. Law Offices of Peter Angelos, 12-300. The bankruptcy case is In re Quigley Co., 04-15739, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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