In a move that it hopes "will ultimately shorten the time it will take to get the asbestos problem completely behind us," Congoleum said it has agreed to modify its original settlement. The new agreement, which is yet to be finalized, stipulates that individuals whose claims were already settled can now share in the proceeds from future claims. At the same time, they agree to forego the security interest they were granted under the original plan. The plan is subject to court approval.

The company said it reached an agreement in principle with representatives of the Asbestos Claimants' Committee and the Future Claimants' Representative and is trying to win approval from other parties affected by the modifications. It added that "there can be no assurance " that the amendments will be approved. The company said it has asked for an adjournment of the proceeding now underway to consider its reorganization plan.

In a statement, Congoleum chainman Roger S. Marcus called the modified plan "another positive step forward."

"We have renegotiated certain important aspects of our plan of reorganization and related documents in light of developments in other asbestos bankruptcy proceedings as well as objections raised concerning our current proposed plan.

"Our hope is that by addressing these concerns and following judicial guidance from other asbestos reorganization cases, the process of obtaining and sustaining the confirmation of our amended plan will ultimately take less time and cost less money, and the risk of an unfavorable outcome will be reduced. While these changes will delay the start of our confirmation process, we believe they will ultimately shorten the time it will take to get the asbestos problem completely behind us. We are hopeful that we can accomplish that by the end of 2005."