James F. Coleman

All articles by James F. Coleman

 

Admission into Evidence of Testimony and Answers to Discovery of Settled Defendants Leads to New Trial Ordered on Issue of Apportionment

NEW JERSEY — Donna Rowe (plaintiff), individually and as executrix and executrix ad prosequendum of the estate of Ronald Rowe (Rowe), appealed an April 27, 2015 judgment of $304,152.70 plus prejudgment interest. The plaintiffs originally sued 27 defendants, alleging that exposure to asbestos from their products caused Rowe’s mesothelioma. Twelve defendants were granted summary judgment, four were dismissed, and two never appeared and the claims against them were abandoned. Additionally, eight parties settled their claims before trial, leaving only Hilco, Inc., the successor-in-interest to Universal…  

$117 Million Verdict Upheld in Talc Case

NEW JERSEY — Superior Court Judge Ana C. Viscomi denied motions from Johnson & Johnson and Imerys Talc America, Inc. to set aside a $37 million verdict in compensatory damages and a combined $80 million verdict in punitive damages awarded earlier this year.  On Wednesday, May 23, 2018, the court heard arguments on Imerys Talc America, Inc.’s motions to overturn the verdict. The court instead upheld the verdict. In rendering her decision, Judge Viscomi stated that the verdicts “do not shock the judicial conscience.”…  

Defendant’s Joinder Denied; Parallel Suits Allowed in Federal and State Court

NEW YORK — On October 3, 2017, the plaintiffs filed two lawsuits in New York state court against two different groups of defendants. One lawsuit was filed against 83 defendants, not including Crane Co. (Crane), alleging that John Grimes developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure to defendants’ asbestos-containing products. At present, that matter remains pending in state court. The second action—the instant action—was filed against four other defendants, including Crane. The plaintiffs similarly alleged that Mr. Grimes developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure…  

Prior Recovery From Party Bars Wrongful Death Claim; Estate’s Claims Against New Parties Can Proceed

WASHINGTON — The plaintiff Barbara Brandes brought a personal injury action against Brand Insulations Inc. (Brand) and other entities after she was diagnosed with mesothelioma. During the pendency of the litigation, Mrs. Brandes passed away, and her action against Brand and others was converted into a survivorship action. During trial, the estate confirmed that it was not seeking to add any new claims or evidence, stating it was not pursuing any potential wrongful death claims at that time. The jury returned a verdict against some…  

Defects in Chain of Custody Lead to Affirmation of Talcum Powder Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment

CALIFORNIA — The plaintiffs Barbara and John Wittman asserted claims for negligence, strict liability, breach of warranty, and loss of consortium against Defendant Coty, Inc. (Coty) alleging that Barbara’s exposure to asbestos in Coty’s talcum powder resulted in her developing mesothelioma. Coty filed a motion for summary judgment, contending that Wittmans’ discovery responses and deposition testimony “demonstrated their inability to prove the claims.” Coty stated that the Wittmans could not show that Barbara was exposed to asbestos through the particular Coty product she had used,…  

Vexing Statute of Repose Question Sent to Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

MASSACHUSETTS  — The plaintiffs sued multiple defendants in the United States District Court, District of Massachusetts, alleging that the plaintiffs’ decedent, Wayne Oliver, was exposed to asbestos during the construction of two nuclear power plants.  Defendant General Electric (GE) filed a motion for summary judgment on counts I,II,IX, and X in the plaintiffs’ Third Amended complaint; both parties agreed that the affected counts were governed by the substantive law of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. GE invoked the Massachusetts statute of repose for improvements to real…  

Turbine Manufacturer’s Choice of Law Motion Granted Based on Location of Asbestos Exposure and Diagnosis

MASSACHUSETTS — Plaintiff Ruth Burleigh, the widow of the plaintiff’s decedent Ernest Burleigh, filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts against numerous defendants alleging that decedent developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos while working as a mechanic at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (the shipyard) from 1960-1981. The shipyard is located in Kittery, Maine, approximately 20 miles from the Massachusetts border. The plaintiff’s decedent alleged exposure to asbestos in Maine only, was a resident of Maine for the…  

Failure to Adopt Safety Measures is Private Conduct That Implicates No Federal Interest

LOUISIANA — Several former employees of Huntington Ingalls, including Robert Templet, brought suit in Louisiana state court, alleging that the company failed to warn them of the risks of asbestos exposure and failed to implement proper safety procedures for handling asbestos.  Templet worked for Huntington Ingalls from 1968 to 2002 and alleged his handling of asbestos-containing materials at various worksites from 1968-79 caused him to contract mesothelioma. Huntington Ingalls removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana under the…  

Claims Against Insulation Supplier Barred By Government Contractor Defense

CALIFORNIA — Plaintiffs Paula Tarjani, Phyllis Newman, and Patsy Rojo, daughters of the plaintiff’s decedent John Ball, brought claims against numerous defendants, alleging that the plaintiff’s decedent was exposed to asbestos while working as a joiner and shipwright from 1965 to 1972.  The plaintiff’s decedent worked at Mare Island aboard the USS Guitarro, USS Hawkbill, USS Pintado, and USS Drum. Defendant Metalclad brokered Unibestos to the United States Navy, and filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, stating that the plaintiffs’ claims were precluded under the…  

New Jersey Jury Awards $37 Million Compensatory Damage Verdict in Asbestos-Talc Case

NEW JERSEY — On April 5, 2018, a Middlesex County, New Jersey jury awarded $37 million in compensatory damages to Plaintiff Stephen Lanzo III and his wife, Kendra, in a mesothelioma case. The plaintiffs alleged that Lanzo developed mesothelioma from his decades-long exposure to asbestos-containing talcum powder sold by Johnson & Johnson and supplied by Imerys Talc America, Inc.  The jury awarded $30 million to Lanzo and $7 million to his wife. The jury will return on April 10, 2018, to consider the plaintiffs’ claims…  

Growing Number of Cases Involving Cosmetic Talc and Mesothelioma Nationwide

In the past five years, the number of lawsuits filed against manufacturers of cosmetic talcum powder has skyrocketed. The lawsuits generally allege that the application of the alleged defective product causes ovarian cancer in women, many times decades after exposure. As the cases involving ovarian cancer balloon with varying degrees of success, plaintiffs have recently begun filing a growing number of lawsuits alleging that exposure to asbestos-containing cosmetic talcum powder causes mesothelioma. The science behind these cases is evolving; courts and juries are not convinced…  

Summary Judgment Denied Based on Potential Successor-In-Interest Liability of Pump Manufacturer

GEORGIA — The plaintiff Mary Farmer, individually and as the surviving spouse of Bobby Lee Farmer, initiated this action in the Superior Court of Dougherty County, Georgia on February 26, 2016. On March 28, 2016, the defendants filed a Notice of Removal, invoking Federal Court diversity jurisdiction. With leave, the plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on December 22, 2016. The plaintiff sued 25 defendants, alleging negligence, product liability negligence, loss of consortium, punitive damages, and wrongful death. Three defendants, Fisher Controls, Inc., Honeywell International Inc.…  

Five Million Dollar Mesothelioma Punitive Damages Award Upheld

ARIZONA — Plaintiff Goerge Coulbourn was a machinist for the United States Navy from 1959 to 1966, during which time he worked with several products sold by defendant Crane Company that contained “significant amounts of asbestos.” The plaintiff sued Crane, alleging, amongst other things, that Crane’s products were defective in failing to warn of the dangers that asbestos posed. The plaintiff died in August 2013, and his wife, Sandra Coulbourn, filed an amended complaint on behalf of herself and her family, asserting a claim for…  

Case Remanded After Appeals Court Finds Plaintiff’s Expert Unreliable

TEXAS — Plaintiff Leonard Baca alleged that while working for defendant BNSF’s predecessor in interest, he was exposed to asbestos, causing him to develop asbestosis. The plaintiff retained an expert, Dr. Alvin Schonfeld, a pulmonogist, who provided a report in which he concluded that Baca’s asbestosis was causally related to his exposure to asbestos during his employment. BNSF moved to exclude Dr. Schonfeld’s causation opinion as inadmissible because it was unreliable under well-established case law. The trial court denied the motion, but also granted permission…  

Remand Affirmed Due to Lack of Causal Nexus in Take-Home Exposure Case

LOUISIANA — The Legendre brothers filed suit in Louisiana State Court on behalf of their sister, Mary Jane Wilde, who died from complications related to mesothelioma. Their father, Percy Legendre, worked at a shipyard owned and operated by Huntington Ingalls, Inc. (Avondale) and was allegedly exposed to asbestos. The plaintiffs further alleged that Mary Jane was exposed to asbestos via fibers that were on her father’s work clothes and this exposure caused her to develop mesothelioma. Defendant Avondale invoked the federal officer removal statute and…  

Summary Judgment Affirmed Based on Lack of Admissible Evidence of Secondary Asbestos Exposure

CALIFORNIA —Sandra Foglia and her children filed suit against Moore Dry Dock (MDD), alleging that the decedent, Ronald Foglia, was exposed to asbestos via his late father, Felix Foglia, and developed mesothelioma. The plaintiffs alleged that Felix was exposed to asbestos while working as an electrician at a shipyard operated by MDD. MDD moved for summary judgment, claiming it owed no duty of care to the decedent for secondary exposure and that the plaintiffs could not reasonably obtain evidence to show that the decedent was…  

Cumulative-Exposure Theory Inconsistent with Test for Causation; Not a Sufficient Basis for Finding Substantial Factor

OHIO — The decedent  Kathleen Schwartz’s husband, Mark Schwartz, filed suit against numerous manufacturers of asbestos-containing products, alleging that asbestos exposure caused her to develop mesothelioma, leading to her death. By the time of trial, Honeywell International, Inc., the successor-in-interest to Bendix Corporation, was the only defendant who remained. The issue at trial — and on appeal — was whether the decedent’s exposure to asbestos from Bendix brake products was a substantial factor in causing the decedent’s mesothelioma. The decedent’s father changed the brakes in…  

Case Remanded to Determine Setoff Amounts from Settlements with Asbestos Trusts

MISSISSIPPI — On February 13, 2009, Clara Hagan filed a complaint, as the representative of Bennie Oakes, against Illinois Central Railroad in the Warren County Circuit Court. The complaint, brought under the provisions of the Federal Employers Liability Act, sought to recover damages for personal injuries and/or death sustained by decedent Bennie Oakes while decedent was employed by Illinois Central and while engaging in interstate commerce. The decedent was employed by Illinois Central from 1952 through 1994 and alleged he was exposed to asbestos “on…  

Exclusion of Decedent’s Deposition Testimony Upheld due to Lack of Meaningful Opportunity for Cross Examination

DELAWARE — Plaintiff William Sykes filed suit in March of 2014 against numerous defendants after being diagnosed with mesothelioma in October, 2013. The plaintiff’s counsel requested expedited trial and discovery depositions due to Plaintiff’s rapidly deteriorating health; a video trial deposition was taken on April 16, 2014. During a break in the trial deposition, the plaintiff informed counsel that he was unable to complete the remainder of the deposition. At that time, the parties were left with only the video trial deposition and no cross…  

Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand to State Court Denied After Court Finds Federal Jurisdiction under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act

LOUISIANA — On June 16, 2017, plaintiff Federico Lopez filed suit against 15 defendants, claiming that his exposure to asbestos as a welder and pipefitter at numerous locations caused his mesothelioma.  Defendants Shell Oil Company and Tennessee Gas Pipeline, LLC, removed the action, invoking federal subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), 43 U.S.C. Section 1349(b), and alternatively, pursuant to federal question jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. Section 1331.  Further, the defendants contended that the court had supplemental jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s…  

Plaintiffs’ Asbestos-Related Claims Time-Barred Due to Prior Settlement Agreement

LOUISIANA — Plaintiffs-Appellants are the widow and surviving children of Raymond J. Lemieux, Sr.. Mr. Lemieux, Sr. worked for Johns-Manville in Marrero, Louisiana from 1956 to 1970 during which time he wore a respirator designed by American Optical, Defendant-Appellee. Raymond, Sr. developed asbestos-related lung cancer, which eventually caused his death in 2015; prior to his death, he filed suit in 2011 against American Optical stemming from his use of their respirator. Represented by his attorney, Raymond, Sr. entered into settlement negotiations with American Optical. The…  

Superior Court Affirms Five Post-Trial Rulings, Remands to Trial Court for Apportionment Under Pennsylvania Fair Share Act

PENNSYLVANIA — Appellee William Roverano initially filed suit in 2014 against multiple defendants, alleging that his lung cancer was caused by exposure to asbestos while employed by PECO between 1971-81. Appellee Jacqueline Roverano also made a claim for loss of consortium. More than a dozen of the named defendants had filed for bankruptcy, and only John Crane, Inc. and Brand Insulations, Inc. had not settled before the jury’s verdict. Prior to the trial, the court held that the Fair Share Act, 42 Pa.C.S. Section 7102,…  

Personal Jurisdiction Defense Waived in Maritime Multidistrict Litigation

Appellants George Perdreauville and Joseph Blue, along with thousands of other seamen, initially filed lawsuits in the late 1980s in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. Section 304 et seq., and general maritime law, alleging injury from exposure to asbestos while onboard the Appellees’ various ships. A lengthy and complex procedural course ensued, and, in 1991, the suits were consolidated in the Asbestos Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern…  

Claire’s Removes Children’s Makeup Kits After Reported Positive Asbestos Tests

Claire’s Stores Inc. removed nine children’s makeup products from store shelves after a report by WJAR-TV that tremolite asbestos was found in various Claire’s kits. Claire’s released a statement, saying that initial testing found the cosmetics to be asbestos-free, but that “out of an abundance of caution, additional testing is underway.” Claire’s further stated that the talcum powder used in its products is from a certified asbestos-free European vendor. A Rhode Island mother was the first to report the potential problem. Kristi Warner, an attorney…  

Plaintiff’s Testimony about Secondary Brake Exposure Sufficient to Overcome Summary Judgment

OHIO – Plaintiff Julia Alexander filed suit against multiple defendants after she was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in May of 2016. The plaintiff alleges that she was exposed to asbestos via Bendix brake products which were manufactured by Honeywell International. The plaintiff testified that she visited her fiancé, an automobile mechanic, two to three times per week for four hours a visit from 1987-91. Throughout this period, the plaintiff alleges she observed her fiancé performing brake work on a variety of vehicles one to three…  

Mesothelioma Verdict Reduced by $4.3 Million on Appeal

NEW YORK — Plaintiff Mary Nash filed suit on behalf of the plaintiff’s decedent, Lewis Nash, alleging bystander exposure to asbestos-containing dust from defendant Navistar’s brakes and gaskets while working as a janitor and bus driver in the Fayettteville-Manluis Central School District. The decedent’s exposure occurred in the bus garage at the school, where decedent routinely spent time during his bus runs. The jury awarded the plaintiff the following: three million dollars in conscious pain and suffering; three million dollars in emotional pain and suffering…  

Lack of Product Specific Expert Testimony About Respirable Asbestos Fibers Reverses Mesothelioma Verdict

CONNECTICUT — Plaintiff Marianne Bradley, as executrix of her husband Wayne Bagley’s estate, sought to recover damages pursuant to Connecticut’s Product Liability Act for the wrongful death of the decedent under theories of negligence and strict liability. Plaintiff alleged that the decedent was exposed to asbestos-containing dust from FM-37, a product manufactured by the defendant, while working at Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation and this exposure caused decedent’s mesothelioma. The plaintiff further alleged that the defendant’s actions in selling its product constituted violations of the Act in…  

Plaintiff’s Status as Independent Contractor Bars Negligence Claim

DELAWARE — Defendant Covestro was the premises owner or successor in interest to one or more prior owners of Mobay Chemical Plant. The plaintiff worked at Mobay for six months in 1979 and was employed by Dravo Corporation, a third party contractor.  The plaintiff testified that he removed insulation from pipes and other equipment; he received instruction and equipment from Dravo supervisors. The plaintiff also worked at Mobay from 1986-88 as a contract engineer for Midwest Tech and testified that he reported to two Mobay…  

Autopsy Ordered Over Plaintiffs’ Objections in Mesothelioma Case

WASHINGTON — Plaintiffs Leslie Jack and her late-husband Patrick Jack brought suit against numerous defendants, including Genuine Parts Company (GPC), alleging that exposure to their products caused Mr. Jack’s mesothelioma. Mr. Jack passed away on October 15, 2017 and defense counsel was notified on October 17, 2017. Counsel for GPC renewed a prior request for an autopsy on the same day. The plaintiffs’ counsel denied the request and informed defense counsel that Mr. Jack’s body would be cremated on October 19, 2017. Counsel for GPC,…  

Talc Manufacturer’s Summary Judgment Reversed; Question of Fact as to Asbestos content of Product

CALIFORNIA — Plaintiff Mary Lyons appealed summary judgment entered against her on her product liability claim against defendant Colgate-Palmolive, which was based on the allegation that she developed mesothelioma from the use of Colgate’s Cashmere Bouquet cosmetic talcum powder. The plaintiff testified at her deposition that she regularly used Cashmere Bouquet after bathing from the early 1950s through the early 197’s. Colgate manufactured Cashmere Bouquet from 1871 until 1985, and continued marketing the product until 1995, which coincided with the United States EPA’s report that…  

Remand Denied and Plaintiffs’ Mesothelioma Suit Dismissed Based on Lack of Personal Jurisdiction

MINNESOTA — In March 2016, the plaintiffs filed suit against multiple defendants, including Conwed Corporation, in Missouri Circuit Court in St. Louis alleging that the husband plaintiff’s mesothelioma was caused by exposure to the defendants’ asbestos-containing products, including Conwed’s ceiling tile. On January 19, 2017, the Missouri Circuit Court dismissed the plaintiffs’ complaint against Conwed without prejudice, finding, in part, that Conwed was “a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in New York.” The plaintiffs refiled suit on March 16, 2017 in Ramsey…  

New York Appellate Court Affirms Nine Million Dollar Verdict in Duty to Warn Grinder Case

NEW YORK — The plaintiff filed suit against various defendants, including Hennessy Industries’ subsidiary, Ammco, alleging that the plaintiff’s use of Ammco’s grinder on asbestos-containing brake linings exposed him to asbestos. The plaintiff’s expert testimony was sufficient to establish exposure to asbestos via use of the grinder in sufficient quantities to cause the plaintiff’s mesothelioma. Further, “because the asbestos-laden dust was created by plaintiff’s use of defendant’s grinder and defendant knew its grinder would be used on asbestos-containing products, defendant had a duty to warn…