Court Hears Motions to Overturn Verdict in $117 Million New Jersey Talc Case Middlesex County, New Jersey

NEW JERSEY — In April of this year, a New Jersey jury awarded $37 million in compensatory damages and $80 million in punitive damages to plaintiff Stephen Lanzo, who alleged that he developed mesothelioma from years of use of defendants’ talcum powder, which the plaintiff claimed was contaminated with asbestos. On Wednesday, May 23, 2018, the court heard arguments on Imerys Talc America, Inc.’s motions to overturn the verdict. In asking the court to overturn the verdict, Imerys argued the plaintiff had presented no competent evidence at trial regarding the frequency of the plaintiff’s alleged exposure to talc, which forced the jury to speculate regarding potential exposure. They further argued that the court was incorrect in instructing the jury to apply an adverse inference to Imerys regarding the company’s alleged ...
Continue Reading...


No Prejudgment Interest for Warren in Viking Pump Litigation Delaware Supreme Court, May 23, 2018

DELAWARE — In today’s episode of As Viking Pump Turns, a Delaware Superior Court denied Warren Pumps’ request for prejudgment interest on amounts owed by its excess insurers for asbestos claims in the long-running litigation.  In 2005, Viking Pump filed a declaratory judgment complaint against Liberty Mutual regarding coverage for asbestos claims under certain primary and umbrella policies.  In perhaps the high point of the litigation, the New York Court of Appeals in 2015 ruled that all sums allocation and vertical exhaustion applied to the relevant excess policies. After further proceedings, in October 2016, Warren allocated its non-reimbursed costs to its excess insurers.  In response, the excess insurers began reviewing, processing, and paying claims.  Because some of the excess insurers took longer to complete this process than Warren would have liked, it ...
Continue Reading...

Lack of Personal Jurisdiction Over Defendant Leads to Remand and Dismissal Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, SIXTH DIVISION. May 18, 2018

ILLINOIS —  The plaintiff brought this action against General Electric (GE) arguing that he developed mesothelioma from exposure during his work at various locations for Republic Steel from 1961-1999. According to the plaintiff, the work took place in Illinois, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas. The plaintiff, a resident of Alabama, filed suit in Illinois. GE moved to dismiss the matter for lack of personal jurisdiction. Specifically, GE argued that the plaintiff’s complaint lacked facts establishing personal jurisdiction through Illinois’ long-arm statute. Moreover, GE took the position that it had not consented to general personal jurisdiction and the plaintiff had not claimed that he was exposed to GE products in Illinois. Therefore, the plaintiff lacked specific personal jurisdiction according to GE. The trial court denied GE’s motion without “identifying” a basis for finding personal ...
Continue Reading...

Minnesota Court of Appeals Affirms Verdict Against Honeywell Court of Appeals of Minnesota, May 21, 2018

MINNESOTA —  In an unpublished opinion, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed four trial rulings made by the district court. The plaintiff, Ronald Conda, filed a lawsuit in July 2015 against numerous defendants, including Honeywell, alleging asbestos exposure caused his mesothelioma. The plaintiff passed and the complaint was amended into a wrongful death action. The case was first tried before a jury in the spring of 2016. The court granted Honeywell’s motion for a new trial on the basis that plaintiff’s counsel improperly displayed documents to the jury regarding Honeywell’s statute of limitations defense which had been specifically excluded from evidence. The district court also concluded that a 2003 amendment to the Minnesota Comparative Fault Act was not applicable. Therefore, if plaintiff prevailed on the statute of limitations defense, Honeywell would be ...
Continue Reading...

Motion to Dismiss Based Upon Lack of Personal Jurisdiction Denied in Maritime Case Motion to Dismiss Based Upon Lack of Personal Jurisdiction Denied in Maritime Case, May 18, 2018

LOUISIANA —  The plaintiff, Robert Schindler, filed suit against Dravo Basic Materials Company, Inc. (Dravo), to recover for injuries caused by his development of mesothelioma from allegedly being exposed to asbestos while working for three months in 1973 on a ship owned by Dravo. The ship was operated in Lake Pontchartrain during the relevant time period. The plaintiff filed his complaint under maritime law on November 21, 2017. Dravo responded by filing a motion to dismiss based upon a lack of personal jurisdiction. Dravo argued that the court possessed neither general or specific personal jurisdiction over it. With regard to the former, Dravo argued that it is not a Louisiana corporation and does not maintain a principal place of business in the state. As for specific jurisdiction, Dravo argued that it ...
Continue Reading...

Talc Case Remanded as Defendant Fails to Establish Improper Joinder United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana, May 17, 2018

LOUISIANA — The plaintiff, Marilyn Rousseau, sued defendants Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and K&B Louisiana Corporation (d/b/a Rite Aid Corporation), among others, claiming that her mesothelioma was caused in part by her use of their allegedly asbestos-contaminated talc products.  Plaintiff, who was a Louisiana citizen, originally brought the suit in state court in Orleans Parish.  J&J removed the case to federal court, claiming diversity jurisdiction and contending that K&B Louisiana, the only non-diverse defendant entity, was improperly joined. Noting that the improper joinder doctrine constituted a narrow exception to complete diversity with a heavy burden of proof on the removing party, the court granted the plaintiff’s motion to remand.  “Improper joinder can be established in two ways: 1) actual fraud in the pleading of jurisdictional facts, or 2) the inability of the ...
Continue Reading...

Defects in Chain of Custody Lead to Affirmation of Talcum Powder Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 4, California, May 16, 2018

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, namely, a specific face powder. Coty further sought summary judgment on the request for punitive damages on the grounds that the Wittmans could not show oppression, fraud, or malice. The Wittmans opposed summary judgment and summary adjudication, contending that Coty “did not carry its initial burden regarding ...
Continue Reading...

Vexing Statute of Repose Question Sent to Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court United States District Court, District of Massachusetts, May 14, 2018

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 property, and the court stated that although the GE turbine-generators at issue, including their insulation materials, were improvements to real property under the statute, “the more vexing is the question whether the statute of repose applies in the context of a contractor like GE’s asbestos-related work.”  ...
Continue Reading...

Wisconsin’s Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act Found Not Applicable in Successor Liability Case Against Refractory Manufacturer Supreme Court of Wisconsin, May 15, 2018

WISCONSIN — In a follow up to Asbestos Case Tracker’s previous post, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision in a recent mesothelioma case involving allegations of fraudulent conveyance by a successor in interest entity. The plaintiff originally filed suit against several defendants including Fire Brick Engineering and Powers Holding claiming they were responsible for her late husband’s development of mesothelioma. Mr. Springer was allegedly exposed to asbestos from 1963-69. The plaintiff filed her suit against Powers naming it as successor to Fire Brick Engineers (FBN1). FBN1 manufactured asbestos containing products including refractory materials. Years after being formed, investors formed an entity that would purchase the “assets only” of FBN1. The entity that bought the assets only was known as FBN2 until it was acquired by ...
Continue Reading...

Baltimore $5 Million-plus Verdict Overturned for New Trial Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, May 11, 2018

MARYLAND — On May 11, 2018, defendants Mack Trucks, Inc. and Ford Motor Co. (collectively as defendants) won a new trial with a decision that overturned a $5 million-plus verdict issued by a Baltimore City jury. The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland found that the trial court provided improper instructions to the jury on the issue of negligence, which was prejudicial to the defendants. Accordingly, the judgments were reversed and remanded for further proceedings on the negligence claims against them not inconsistent with the court’s opinion. Plaintiff Christopher Coates was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in June 2015 at 67 years old.  He filed suit shortly thereafter on October 6, 2015 in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City against 30-plus defendants. The plaintiff alleged claims in negligence and strict liability ...
Continue Reading...