Madison County “Judicial Hellhole” Designation Sees Signs of Changing

Madison County, Illinois has traditionally been dubbed the “judicial hellhole” of asbestos litigation, but this designation shows signs of changing. In the first half of 2016, this venue had 29 percent of the nation’s asbestos filings. It has a history of unfair docketing practices, denial of forum non conveniens motions, and large plaintiff verdicts. Full-blown jury trials in asbestos litigation are rare for various reasons, not the least of which is the threat of multi-million dollar plaintiff verdicts, but in recent years Madison County jury verdicts have favored a wide variety of defendants over plaintiffs. Defense verdicts have ranged from premises and joint compound defendants to naval suppliers and automotive brake grinders. This significant trend may serve to quell the fears of defendants being served with complaints in this jurisdiction, ...
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Plaintiffs’ Daubert Challenge Denied as Expert Disclaims Causation Expertise United States District Court, D. Maryland, July 17, 2017

Plaintiffs filed their Daubert challenge seeking exclusion of Georgia Pacific’s Certified Industrial Hygienist, Donald Marano. Plaintiff argued that Mr. Marano would offer qualitative and quantitative exposures of Plaintiff along with the risk and causation of Mr. Arbogast’s mesothelioma. Georgia Pacific countered with the position that Mr. Marano has “repeatedly disclaimed any expertise on causation and has confined his opinion to explaining the risk assessments performed by various agencies and organizations and offering his risk assessment opinion based on the analysis that his profession is trained to provide.” After argument, the Court agreed with Georgia Pacific and denied the motion finding that Mr. Marano’s opinion met all the criteria of Federal Rule 702. Read the full decision here.
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Exclusion of Plaintiffs’ Causation Experts Leads to Granting of Summary Judgment United States District Court, D. Maryland, July 17, 2017

Plaintiffs filed suit against Georgia Pacific (“GP”) and Union Carbide Corporation (“UCC”) alleging Mr. Rockman’s peritoneal mesothelioma was caused by exposure to asbestos for which both Defendants were responsible. Specifically, Mr. Rockman claimed “bystander” exposure to GP’s Ready Mix joint compound that contained UCC’s Calidria chrysotile asbestos during residential renovations in 1965, 1973 and 1976. Plaintiff stated that he was exposed during his time living in a Brooklyn apartment when a ceiling was repaired in 1965, again in 1973 during wall repair in Baltimore, MD and finally during wall repair at a different Baltimore, MD residence in 1976. The case was removed from the Circuit Court for Baltimore City by UCC. GP and UCC filed motions for summary judgment. GP also filed a motion to exclude causation opinions of Drs. ...
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Plaintiff Failure to Establish Retailer’s Knowledge of Danger of Asbestos Leads to Summary Judgment Superior Court of Delaware, July 12, 2017

Plaintiffs brought this suit against multiple defendants for Mr. Glaser’s alleged asbestos related injuries. Scott Glaser alleged that he was exposed to asbestos floor tile sold by Sears and Roebuck (“Sears”) while working for various employers. His work required him to clean up “scraps or pieces of floor tile off the floor.” Defendant took the position that it was a retailer and never “mined, milled, processed, or distributed wholesale asbestos containing products.” The Court noted that under Michigan law for a products liability action, a “seller other than a manufacturer is not liable for harm allegedly caused by the product unless either of the following is true: a) The seller failed to exercise a reasonable care, including breach of any implied warranty, with respect to the product and that failure ...
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Summary Judgment Denied Upon Showing that Defendant’s Boilers Contained Asbestos Gaskets and Rope Superior Court of Delaware, July 12, 2017

Plaintiff Clarence Dionne filed suit against several defendants including Cleaver Brooks alleging that he was exposed to asbestos while working at the Bay Area Medical Facility. Plaintiff alleged that he “scraped off the rope gaskets and supervised this task” on the doors of Defendant’s boilers. Not only did he personally perform this work but he also supervised others in the process. After a promotion in 1975, he took on the task of ordering replacement parts through his secretary. The replacement gaskets and insulation were supplied by Cleaver Brooks according to Mr. Dionne. Defendant argued that Plaintiff could only speculate whether the boilers contained asbestos replacement parts. Further, Plaintiff could not say whether those parts contained asbestos. For causation, the Court stated that the question is “whether the defendant’s negligence was ...
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Summary Judgment Granted upon Plaintiff’s Failure to Establish Replacement Parts Supplied by Valve Defendant Superior Court of Delaware, July 12, 2017

Plaintiff brought this action against several defendants including Fairbanks Company alleging exposure to asbestos while working with Defendant’s valves. Specifically, Plaintiff recalled working with globe, gate and ball valves for various employers and locations. Plaintiff also testified that he replaced packing in the valves and personally removed external insulation to repair the valves. Plaintiff assumed that the packing he encountered contained asbestos based on the high heat application of the equipment. Fairbanks argued that no evidence pointed to it having made asbestos packing Plaintiff encountered. Plaintiff countered and relied on interrogatories whereby some valves required asbestos. Plaintiff further pointed to catalogs that “specifically and regularly called for the use of asbestos gaskets packing.” Defendant also argued that it had no duty to warn Plaintiff of the dangers of asbestos parts ...
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Plaintiff Fails to Demonstrate Decedent Worked with Boiler Manufacture’s Product; Summary Judgment Granted Superior Court of Delaware, July 11, 2017

Dorothy Charbonneau filed suit in the Superior Court of Delaware against multiple defendants alleging the defendants’ use of asbestos caused her husband, Robert Charbonneau, to contract an asbestos related disease.  Mr. Charbonneau testified that he believed he was exposed to asbestos while maintaining and cleaning multiple boilers manufactured by Cleaver-Brooks throughout his employment career.  Mr. Charbonneau also testified that he removed a sectional boiler during employment with Smith Mechanical. He testified that the boiler may have been Cleaver-Brooks but stated that he believed this because “they had a lot of Cleaver-Brooks in the area.” Cleaver-Brooks contended that the plaintiff’s claims fail under Massachusetts law because a manufacturer does not owe a duty to warn for asbestos dangers from other manufacturers’ parts.  Applying Massachusetts law, to prove causation in an asbestos ...
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Seeking Your Nomination

Attention blog readers! This year, the ABA Journal is publishing their first ever “Web 100” celebrating the best of the legal industry on the web. In order to be named to the list, we’ll need your help! Since the start of our blog in October of 2015, Asbestos Case Tracker has reported on hundreds of asbestos decisions and has been hailed as the go-to resource for up-to-date asbestos decisions happening in courts throughout the United States. Our blog reports nearly daily on legislative updates, significant verdicts, and other critical developments in the asbestos area. We provide summaries of and access to decisions, along with insightful commentary from our attorney bloggers and guest authors, in-depth feature articles, links to useful resources, and much more. If you feel Asbestos Case Tracker is one of ...
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Wrongful Death Claims Barred by Res Judicata from Prior Loss of Consortium Case California Court of Appeal, July 11, 2017

In this wrongful death case, plaintiff Janet Stewart appealed the grant of summary judgment to Union Carbide that her loss of consortium claim was barred by res judicata. The plaintiff also argued a miscarriage of justice in the setoff of her deceased husband’s settlement with two asbestos bankruptcy trusts against her entire economic damage award. The court affirmed both rulings. Larry Stewart worked as a plumber from 1968-2007 when he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. He and his wife filed a personal injury lawsuit (Stewart I). At trial, Union Carbide received a directed verdict on the fraud claim, but the jury found it liable for negligence and strict products liability. The jury found Union Carbide 85 percent at fault and Hamilton Materials 15 percent at fault. After setoffs, the court entered ...
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Various Rulings Issued on Motions in Limine in Trial; Plaintiffs’ Motion to Exclude Defense Experts Denied U.S. District Court, Western District of Wisconsin, July 7, 2017

The court issued various rulings on motions in limine filed by both the plaintiffs and defendant John Crane in this matter that is set for trial on July 17, 2017. The decedent died of mesothelioma. Many of the motions were unopposed. Below are summaries of the more pertinent rulings. Regarding the plaintiff’s motions, the plaintiff argued that the defendant should be barred from disclosing that some corporations were in bankruptcy. The defendants opposed the motion because under Wisconsin law, any claims plaintiffs have submitted to bankruptcy trusts were admissible. The court agreed that any claims the plaintiffs have asserted that other entities were responsible for the development of the decedent’s mesothelioma were potentially relevant, thus denied the motion in part, but granted the motion to the extent it sought to ...
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Summary Judgment Overturned as Lab Suppliers Found to Have Burden of Causation State of New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division Third Judicial Department, July 6, 2017

Plaintiff Eileen A. O’Connor was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma allegedly caused from exposure to equipment containing asbestos while working at a research lab from approximately 1975-79. The plaintiff filed suit in February 2015 against several defendants, including suppliers of various products used at this research lab. Supplier defendants moved for summary judgment arguing, among other things, that the plaintiffs failed to identify them as the suppliers of the asbestos-containing products in question. The Supreme Court granted the defendants’ motions dismissing the complaint against them, finding the plaintiffs failed to adequately identify any defendants as the supplier of the asbestos-containing products at issue. The plaintiffs appealed. Upon reviewing this appeal, the court emphasized that a defendant cannot prevail on a motion for summary judgment merely by correctly arguing that the record ...
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