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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Plaintiff’s Medical Expert Permitted to Testify After Reversal of Judgment Barring Opinion California Court of Appeals, August 14, 2017

Plaintiffs brought suit against several defendants including TRZ Realty, alleging their decedent developed colon cancer as a result of occupational exposure to asbestos. William Duty worked as a drywall taper for over 40 years. Before trial, TRZ filed a motion in limine challenging Dr. Revels Cayton’s qualifications to testify as to the causal connection between colorectal cancer and Plaintiff’s exposure to asbestos. After the trial court’s hearing, the court disqualified Dr. Cayton. The plaintiffs conceded they could not prevail at trial without his testimony. The plaintiffs filed an appeal. On appeal, the court reviewed the standard for expert qualifications. In sum, “the expert must be shown to have special knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education sufficient to qualify him as an expert on the subject to which his testimony relates. ...
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Loss of Consortium Claim Dismissed Where Wrongful Death Statute Controls U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, August 9, 2017

The plaintiff filed suit against multiple defendants, alleging her decedent developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos containing products. Within the complaint, Ms. Stewart added a count for loss of consortium. The defendant moved to dismiss the loss of consortium count pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The plaintiff filed no response. The court quickly analyzed its review of a case while sitting in diversity. The court noted that “if state substantive law has denied a plaintiff a remedy for his cause of action, the district court must dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” An action sounded in wrongful death did not exist at common in law in North Carolina but vested pursuant to the state’s later ...
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Friction Defendants Granted Summary Judgment on the Issue of Causation Supreme Court of New York, Nassau County, August 2, 2017

On August, 2, 2017, Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Julianne Capetola granted various defendants’ motion to renew and re-argue the court’s prior denial of the defendants’ combined Frye/summary judgment motions as to the issue of causation. Upon renewal, the court granted summary judgment to the defendants. By way of background, plaintiffs Giulio Novello and Rosaria Novello brought suit in the Nassau County Supreme Court seeking damages for personal injuries against various automotive-related defendants. The plaintiffs contended that Novello’s lung cancer diagnosis was causally related to his occupational exposure to asbestos from brake work as an automotive technician. The plaintiffs sought to support the causal theory with expert reports from Drs. James Strauchen and Mark Ginsberg. The defendants filed a Frye motion seeking to preclude the plaintiffs‘ expert witness causation opinions ...
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Consideration of Decedent’s Specific Exposure History Renders Testimony of Dr. Jacqueline Moline Reliable U.S. District Court, New Jersey, August 4, 2017

Decedent Gerald Hoffeditz alleged asbestos exposure from automotive and heavy equipment repair on various vehicles, including large military trucks while working at the Letterkenny Army Depot. He subsequently passed away from mesothelioma. Various defendants moved to exclude the evidence and testimony put forth by the plaintiff’s expert Dr. Jacqueline Moline. The court denied this motion. For expert testimony to be admitted, the proffered witness must: (1) be qualified; (2) testify about matters requiring scientific, technical or specialized knowledge (reliability), and (3) assist the trier of fact. To be qualified, the witness must have specialized expertise. To be reliable, the process or technique the expert used in formulating his/her opinion must be based on the methods and procedures of science. Finally, the testimony must establish a valid scientific connection to the ...
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Remand Granted Where Defendant Failed to Show Government Exercised Control Over Warnings and Safety U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, August 4, 2017

Plaintiff Robert Templet, Sr. alleged asbestos exposure during his work for defendant Avondale Industries, Inc. The plaintiff was employed by Avondale from 1968-2002, and later developed malignant pleural mesothelioma. Defendants Avondale and Lamorak Insurance Company removed to federal court due to the federal officer removal statute. The plaintiff moved to remand. The court granted the motion and remanded this case back to the State of Louisiana. Avondale based its removal on the plaintiff’s deposition testimony wherein he testified that they worked on Navy Destroyer Escorts and Coast Guard Cutters. During this time he worked near insulators and asbestos-containing wallboard. Avondale argued this work was done pursuant to contracts with the United States government and federal specifications. Avondale also asserted two colorable federal defenses, in that (1) the plaintiff’s claims were ...
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Compressor Manufacturer’s Appeal Denied Based on Finding of Substantial Contribution to Decedent’s Disease Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Third Circuit, August 2, 2017

Myra Williams died on August 8, 2013 of complications from malignant mesothelioma. Plaintiff Jimmy Smith, along with his four children, filed suit against several defendants alleging that their products cause Myra’s mesothelioma. Smith alleged that he was exposed to asbestos fibers while working at the Placid Oil Facility in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Smith unknowingly brought fibers and dust home on his clothing after each day of work. Myra would handle and wash Jimmy’s clothing, and sustained what is commonly referred to as bystander asbestos exposure. Ingersoll–Rand was the manufacturer of ten compressors that were installed in the “compressor room” of the Placid Oil facility. The turbo chargers and exhaust pipes for each compressor were insulated with asbestos.  The plaintiffs also elicited testimony that the Ingersoll–Rand compressors had asbestos gaskets on them, which ...
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Brake and Talc Supplier Successfully Move to Dismiss on Lack of Personal Jurisdiction U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, July 31, 2017

Following up on prior ACT posts as to the Hodjera suit out of the Western District of Washington, the court granted motions for summary judgment filed by defendants Honeywell International  and Imerys Talc America Inc. under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) for lack of personal jurisdiction. The court reiterated that due process requires a district court to have personal jurisdiction over a defendant in order to adjudicate a claim against it. Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S. Ct. 746, 753 (2014).  Further, the plaintiffs have the burden of demonstrating that the court may exercise personal jurisdiction over the defendant.  Absent an evidentiary hearing, plaintiffs need only make, through the submission of pleadings and affidavits a prima facie showing of facts supporting personal jurisdiction to avoid dismissal.  The court can establish ...
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Various Product Manufacturers Granted Summary Judgment Under Maritime and Oregon Law U.S. District Court, District of Delaware, July 21, 2017

Harold and Judy Haynes filed this asbestos related personal injury action in the Delaware Superior Court against multiple defendants on June 3, 2016, asserting claims arising from Mr. Haynes’ alleged harmful exposure to asbestos. Defendant Crane Co. removed the action to U.S. District Court in Delaware on July 15, 2016. Defendants Aurora, Warren Pumps, Pfizer, FMC, Honeywell, BorgWarner, and Air & Liquid filed motions for summary judgment on March 24, 2017.The plaintiffs did not respond to these motions. Counsel for the defendants sent letters to the court seeking dismissal due to the plaintiffs’ lack of opposition to its summary judgment motion. The plaintiffs alleged that Mr. Haynes developed lung cancer as a result of exposure to asbestos-containing products during the course of his service as a boiler tender with the ...
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Channeling Injunction Prohibits General Motor’s Wrongful Death Suit for Contribution against the Manville Trust U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York, July 24, 2017

General Motors (GM) filed suit against the Manville Personal Injury Settlement Trust (Manville) seeking a declaratory order that its state suit against Manville was not barred by the longstanding “Channeling Injunction” of the Manville Corporation’s chapter 11 reorganization (the Plan) and subsequent order confirming the same. Separate from the declaratory complaint, GM filed suit in Ohio state court against the estate of Bobby Bolen and multiple asbestos defendants including Manville. GM alleged the defendants were jointly and severally liable to GM as it had subrogated to the rights of Mr. Bolen for payments previously made to Bolen under a worker’s compensation claim. GM further asserted that it was entitled to the full amount of its interest due “from defendants’ and Bolen’s failure to give notice to GM of the settlements” ...
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Each and Every Exposure Theory Insufficient to Prove Specific Causation in South Carolina Federal Court U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, July 21, 2017

This decision addresses a similar issue from two different cases and therefore was decided within the same order. Both sets of plaintiffs offered the opinions of Carlos Bedrossian, MD to provide evidence of specific causation. For a brief factual background, plaintiff John E. Haskins served in the U.S. Navy as a fireman aboard the USS Coney. Haskins was diagnosed with mesothelioma in November of 2014 allegedly caused by his cumulative exposure to asbestos from working with and around asbestos-containing products manufactured or distributed by the defendants. Plaintiff James Willson Chesher served as a machinist mate and a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy and conducted or oversaw maintenance and repair work on various types of asbestos-containing equipment, including valves and de-aerating feed tanks. Chesher was also diagnosed with mesothelioma allegedly ...
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