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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Court’s Refusal to Exercise Supplemental Jurisdiction Over Dismissed Defendant Leads to Remand U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, September 18, 2017

LOUISIANA — The plaintiff filed this action against several defendants, including Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa, Limited (IDC), alleging he developed lung cancer from exposure to asbestos containing products for which the defendants were responsible. Immediately after the suit was filed, the plaintiff moved to dismiss claims against IDC. A co-defendant stevedoring company filed a third party complaint for contribution and/or indemnification against IDC before the court ruled on the pending motion to dismiss. IDC then removed the case to federal court. The plaintiffs moved to remand and filed a motion to dismiss IDC pursuant to Federal Rule 41(a). IDC also filed a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule 12(b)(6). The court began its analysis by stating Rule 41 (a) permits a plaintiff to dismiss his or her claims ...
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Plaintiff Awarded Attorneys’ Fees and Costs for Improper Removal U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, September 15, 2017

WASHINGTON — Plaintiff Barbadin filed suit against defendants including Scapa Dryer Fabrics and AstenJohnsten, Inc. (defendants) alleging exposure to asbestos containing products for which the defendants were responsible. Scapa removed the matter on April 17, 2017.  The plaintiff quickly moved for remand and sought fees and costs. The court noted that it had previously remanded this case one time. The court concluded that Scapa had taken “inconsistent positions in an effort to keep this action in federal court” and used “untenable arguments.” The court also granted the plaintiff’s request for fees and costs but instructed the plaintiff to detail her fees and costs. The defendants were invited to file a reply to the plaintiff’s submission on fees and costs but did not. For calculating costs, the court relied on the ...
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Magistrate Judge Recommends No Personal Jurisdiction Over Exelon Corporation in Delaware U.S. District Court of Delaware, September 14, 2017

DELAWARE — Plaintiffs Michael and Sally Harding filed claims in Delaware state court due to Michael Harding’s exposure to asbestos while working as a pipefitter for the United States Navy from 1963-67. Defendant Crane Co. removed to federal court. Defendant Exelon Corporation moved for dismissal due to lack of personal jurisdiction. Exelon was not a Delaware business entity and did not have a principal place of business in Delaware.  The plaintiffs did not respond to Exelon’s motion to dismiss. The magistrate judge recommended granting this motion. To establish personal jurisdiction, plaintiffs must produce facts sufficient to satisfy both statutory and constitutional requirements. First, the court must determine whether there was a statutory basis for jurisdiction under the forum state’s long-arm statute. Second, the court must determine whether the exercise of ...
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Collateral Estoppel Leads to Grant of Summary Judgment for Pump Manufacturer U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, September 11, 2017

MISSOURI — The plaintiffs filed suit in Missouri against multiple defendants including Buffalo Pumps, arguing that their decedent, Berj Hovsepian, developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos containing products for which the defendants were responsible. The case was removed to the U.S. District Court. Prior to filing the Missouri suit, the plaintiffs filed suit against Buffalo in Massachusetts asserting very similar allegations. Buffalo moved for summary judgment in the Massachusetts case. The motion was granted as unopposed. In the instant matter, Buffalo moved for summary judgment, arguing that the suit was barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel. As for summary judgment, the court noted that summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue as to any material fact. Of course, the burden falls on the ...
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Gasket Manufacturer’s Summary Judgment Affirmed Where Plaintiff Failed to Timely Disclose Exposure Affidavits of Fact Witness Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga County, September 7, 2017

Plaintiff Paul Heaton sued multiple defendants including an automotive gasket manufacturer and Honeywell International alleging his decedent, Robert Brawley, developed mesothelioma for which defendants were responsible. Fact witness Michael Victor was deposed on Brawley’s use of the gasket manufacturer’s gaskets on shade tree mechanic work from 1974-2010. The deposition lasted three days. On day one of Victor’s deposition, he denied having any knowledge regarding Brawley’s work on home renovations. However, Honeywell probed on that issue later during the deposition. The plaintiff’s counsel refused to permit the witness to answer based on his prior answer concerning knowledge of home repair. A few months after the deposition, Victor passed away. Remarkably, it was later learned that Victor had executed an affidavit that Brawley had in fact used the products that counsel for ...
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Massachusetts Corporation Granted Dismissal for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction Supreme Court of New York, New York County, September 7, 2017

Plaintiffs Sean Snowdale and Ryan Snowdale as Co-Executors of the Estate of Donald Kenneth Snowdale initially filed this asbestos-related suit against a number of defendants, including Barnes & Jones, Incorporated on July 6, 2015 in the Supreme Court of New York, New York County (NYCAL). Barnes & Jones answered and asserted the affirmative defense that NYCAL lacked personal jurisdiction over Barnes & Jones as to each and every count in the complaint. On July 20, 2017, Barnes & Jones moved to dismiss based on lack of personal jurisdiction and relied upon New York law in Trumbull, Goodyear and Daimler, as well as other New York case law. In this matter, the following facts were outlined within the motion papers: (1) Barnes & Jones was a Massachusetts corporation, duly organized under ...
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$8.5 Million Verdict Affirmed Against Premises Defendant District Court of Appeal of Florida, Third District, September 6, 2017

Plaintiffs Dennis Britt and Rosa-Maria Britt filed suit after Dennis Britt was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Britt ultimately passed away from the disease and Rosa-Marie Britt continued as personal representative of his estate and added a wrongful death claim. Britt was an employee benefits advisor from 1978-1997 where he visited various commercial and industrial facilities to speak with, and enroll, employees of these facilities, some of which were owned and operated by the defendant. Prior to his death, Britt testified that during the course of his visits, and while on the premises of the defendant’s facilities in New York and California, he was exposed to and inhaled asbestos fibers. At trial, the plaintiff introduced evidence that the defendant’s New York and California facilities contained asbestos-insulated pipes that released airborne fibers, in ...
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Prior Settlement Enforced Under FELA Leading to Dismissal of Action Supreme Court of West Virginia, August 31, 2017

The plaintiff filed suit against defendants including Norfolk Southern Railroad Company (NSRC), alleging his decedent, Aaron Cole, developed lung cancer as a result of his work as a machinist for NSRC. NSRC sought dismissal based on the fact that Cole had previously released NSRC from future liability in May of 2000. Originally, Cole filed suit in 1996 alleging occupational pneumoconiosis including asbestosis. He later signed a release with NSRC for $20,000.  The release in pertinent part stated that the plaintiff “does hereby release and forever discharge NSRC from all liability for all claims or actions for pulmonary respiratory occupational diseases and/or other known injuries, physical, mental or financial, suffered or incurred, including but not limited to a) medical, hospital and funeral expenses, b) pain and suffering, c) loss of income, ...
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Various Defendants Granted Summary Judgment Under Maritime Law Bare Metal Defense U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, August 31, 2017

Plaintiffs Stephen and Marilyn Charlevoix filed this asbestos related personal injury action in Delaware Superior Court against multiple defendants on July 10, 2015. Crane removed the action to this court on August 21, 2015. The plaintiff stated that Mr. Charlevoix was first exposed to asbestos-containing products during his service as a boiler tender with the U.S. Navy from 1961 to 1964 aboard the USS Valley Forge. After his service in the Navy, Mr. Charlevoix worked at Grede Foundry from 1964 to 1966 as a grinder. From 1966 to 1978, Mr. Charlevoix worked as an equipment operator and foreman for M.J. Electric. After leaving M.J. Electric, Mr. Charlevoix went to Charlevoix Logging to work as a logger, where he worked until 2012. The plaintiff and two other product identification witnesses were ...
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Court Denies Partial Motion for Summary Judgment on Punitive Damages Against John Crane While Granting Full Summary Judgment for Other Defendants U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, August 30, 2017

Icom Henry Evans and Johanna Elaine Evans filed an asbestos related personal injury action in the Delaware Superior Court against multiple defendants on June 11, 2015, asserting injuries arising from Mr. Evans’ alleged harmful exposure to asbestos. Defendant John Crane filed a partial motion for summary judgment as to the plaintiffs’ punitive damages claim. John Crane admits to having knowledge of the hazards of asbestos by 1970. However, the parties dispute whether John Crane had knowledge of the hazards of asbestos before 1970. The parties further dispute whether John Crane’s knowledge after 1970 is relevant to consideration of the punitive damages issue. Punitive damages are limited to situations where “a defendant’s conduct is ‘outrageous,’ owing to ‘gross negligence,’ ‘willful, wanton, and reckless indifference for the rights of others,’ or behavior ...
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