Item 3. Legal Proceedings
We are involved in environmental remediation matters, legal proceedings, claims, investigations and warranty obligations that are incidental to the conduct of our business and create the potential for contingent losses. We accrue for potential contingent losses when our review of available facts indicates that it is probable a loss has been incurred and the amount of the loss is reasonably estimable. Each quarter we assess our loss contingencies based upon currently available facts, existing technology, and presently enacted laws and regulations taking into consideration the likely effects of inflation and other societal and economic factors and record adjustments to these reserves as required. As an example, we consider all available evidence including prior experience in remediation of contaminated sites, other companies’ cleanup experiences and data released by the United States Environmental Protection Agency or other organizations when we evaluate our environmental remediation contingencies. Further, all of our loss contingency estimates are subject to revision in future periods based on actual costs or new information. With respect to our environmental liabilities, where future cash flows are fixed or reliably determinable, we have discounted those liabilities. All other environmental liabilities are recorded at their undiscounted amounts. We evaluate recoveries separately from the liability and, when they are assured, recoveries are recorded and reported separately from the associated liability in our consolidated financial statements.
We are subject to a variety of environmental and pollution control laws and regulations in all jurisdictions in which we operate. We expense or capitalize, as appropriate, expenditures for ongoing compliance with environmental regulations that relate to current operations. We expense costs related to an existing condition caused by past operations that do not contribute to current or future revenue generation. As of December 31, 2011, we have the obligation to remediate or contribute towards the remediation of certain sites, including one Federal Superfund site. At December 31, 2011, our aggregated estimated share of environmental remediation costs for all these sites on a discounted basis was approximately $17 million, of which $5 million is recorded in other current liabilities and $12 million is recorded in deferred credits and other liabilities in our consolidated balance sheet. For those locations in which the liability was discounted, the weighted average discount rate used was 1.9 percent. The undiscounted value of the estimated remediation costs was $20 million. Our expected payments of environmental remediation costs are estimated to be approximately $4 million in 2012, $2 million in 2013, $1 million each year beginning 2014 through 2016 and $11 million thereafter. Based on information known to us, we have established reserves that we believe are adequate for these costs. Although we believe these estimates of remediation costs are reasonable and are based on the latest available information, the costs are estimates and are subject to revision as more information becomes available about the extent of remediation required. At some sites, we expect that other parties will contribute towards the remediation costs. In addition, certain environmental statutes provide that our liability could be joint and several, meaning that we could be required to pay in excess of our share of remediation costs. Our understanding of the financial strength of other potentially responsible parties at these sites has been considered, where appropriate, in our determination of our estimated liability. We do not believe that any potential costs associated with our current status as a potentially responsible party in the Federal Superfund site, or as a liable party at the other locations referenced herein, will be material to our consolidated results of operations, financial position or cash flows.
We also from time to time are involved in legal proceedings, claims or investigations. Some of these proceedings allege damages against us relating to environmental liabilities (including, toxic tort, property damage and remediation), intellectual property matters (including patent, trademark and copyright infringement, and licensing disputes), personal injury claims (including injuries due to product failure, design or warning issues, and other product liability related matters), taxes, employment matters, and commercial or contractual disputes, sometimes related to acquisitions or divestitures. For example, one of our Argentine subsidiaries is currently defending against a criminal complaint alleging the failure to comply with laws requiring the proceeds of export transactions to be collected, reported and/or converted to local currency within specified time periods. As another example, in the U.S. we are subject to an audit in 11 states with respect to the payment of unclaimed property to those states, spanning a period as far back as 30 years. We now have practices in place which we believe ensure that we pay unclaimed property as required. We vigorously defend ourselves against all of these claims. In future periods, we could be subject to cash costs or charges to earnings if any of these matters are resolved on unfavorable terms. However, although the ultimate outcome of any legal matter cannot be predicted with certainty, based on current information, including our assessment of the merits of the particular claim, we do not expect that these legal proceedings or claims will have any material adverse impact on our future consolidated financial position, results of operations or cash flows.
In addition, we are subject to a number of lawsuits initiated by a significant number of claimants alleging health problems as a result of exposure to asbestos. In the early 2000’s we were named in nearly 20,000 complaints, most of which were filed in Mississippi state court and the vast majority of which made no allegations of exposure to asbestos from our product categories. Most of these claims have been dismissed and our current docket of active and inactive cases is less than 500 cases nationwide. A small number of claims have been asserted by railroad workers alleging exposure to asbestos products in railroad cars manufactured by The Pullman Company, one of our subsidiaries. The balance of the claims is related to alleged exposure to asbestos in our automotive products. Only a small percentage of the claimants allege that they were automobile mechanics and a significant number appear to involve workers in other industries or otherwise do not include sufficient information to determine whether there is any basis for a claim against us. We believe, based on scientific and other evidence, it is unlikely that mechanics were exposed to asbestos by our former products and that, in any event, they would not be at increased risk of asbestos-related disease based on their work with these products. Further, many of these cases involve numerous defendants, with the number of each in some cases exceeding 100 defendants from a variety of industries. Additionally, the plaintiffs either do not specify any, or specify the jurisdictional minimum, dollar amount for damages. As major asbestos manufacturers and/or users continue to go out of business or file for bankruptcy, we may experience an increased number of these claims. We vigorously defend ourselves against these claims as part of our ordinary course of business. In future periods, we could be subject to charges to earnings if any of these matters are resolved unfavorably to us. To date, with respect to claims that have proceeded sufficiently through the judicial process, we have regularly achieved favorable resolutions. Accordingly, we presently believe that these asbestos-related claims will not have a material adverse impact on our future consolidated financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.