PODCAST: Koch Industries Using “Texas Two-Step” to Prevent Asbestos Victims from Going to Court

Lori Knapp testifies infront of Congress about how the "Texas Two-Step" denies asbestos victims & their families their day in court. (CSPAN)

This week, as part of our podcast, Payday Report spoke to Lori Knapp and her lawyer, Jon Ruschdeki, who have been involved in a 6-year lawsuit against Koch Industries-owned Georgia Pacific, but have yet to see their day in court.

The lawsuit stems from her father, Ed Chapman’s death in 2020 from mesothelioma. Her father contracted the disease as a construction worker working with drywall containing asbestos for Koch Industries-owned Georgia Pacific.

In 2018, her father sued Koch Industries for damages. He died in 2020, and his daughter, Lori, has taken on his case, but six years later, using a bankruptcy process called the “Texas Two-Step,” the case has yet to see its day in court. 

“My dad wanted to have his day in court; my dad wanted a jury of his peers to hear his case so that he could share with them what these companies did to him as well as many of his friends who had already passed away from this disease,” says Knapp. “It frustrated him, and he didn’t understand it. In his frustration, he was dealing with his sickness, the illness itself”. 

Koch Industries-owned Georgia Pacific, currently faces more than 60,000 asbestos lawsuits. However, they last paid claims on asbestos lawsuits in 2017 and prevented nearly all further claims from going to trial. 

The company has avoided liabilities through a controversial bankruptcy procedure called the ‘Texas Two-Step.” Under Texas law, bankrupt companies are allowed to divide in two.

In 2017, Koch Industries divided Georgia Pacific into two new subsidiaries: Georgia Pacific has factories and warehouses and makes paper products. They also created a spinoff company, Bestwall, whose sole creditors are Georgia Pacific, which formerly employed the workers. They have liabilities too. 

Three months after creating Bestwall, the shell company filed for bankruptcy, forcing many desperate families to settle for pennies on the dollar on claims that expired years ago. US 4th Circuit Court Judge Robert King even referred to the legal maneuvers by Koch Industries-owned Georgia Pacific as a “shell game”. 

While bankruptcy judges have awarded $24 million in damages to lawyers to work on the Bestwall cases, the lawyers have prevented any of the cases from getting their day in court.  

Lori Knapp says the company is simply hoping that asbestos victims will die off and that their survivors will settle the cases rather than incur the emotional burden of fighting. Knapp says that the continued court battle makes it hard for her to have emotional closure. 

“It’s heartbreaking. It s just like living it over and over,” says Knapp. “It’s hurtful, It’s hard. But I just keep telling myself I have to do this because there are other victims that are still alive, that if one thing I say can make any difference, I have to say it and I’ll continue until the day I die.” 

Listen to Lori Knapp’s story of fighting against Koch Industries to get a day in her court for her dead father. 

About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter and alumni of the Guardian. In addition to filing nearly 2,000 stories from 46 states, Elk traveled with Lula from Sáo Bernando do Campos all the way to the Oval Office in the White House. Credited by the Washington Post for being the first reporter to track the strike wave systematically, Elk started Payday Report using his NLRB settlement from being illegally fired for union organizing in 2015. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and works frequently in Rio de Janeiro, where he attended college at PUC-Rio. He speaks both Portuguese and Pittsburghese fluently. His email is [email protected]