2020 Year in Review and 2021 Judiciary Outlook

2020 has been one of the most unprecedented years in the court system nationwide due to the coronavirus pandemic. Unsurprisingly, case and motion filing were down in 2020. As previously reported by the Asbestos Case Tracker, the number of motion filings were significantly down in the second and third quarters of 2020.

In addition, consulting firm KCIC reported that asbestos filings fell by 20 percent during the time period of January through April 2020, as compared to January through April 2019. They similarly reported …

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Summary Judgment Denied to Railroad Defendant on Issue of Foreseeability

U.S. District Court for the District of Maine, January 25, 2021

The plaintiff, Victor Coffin, alleged he was diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of his exposures to asbestos while working for Maine Central Railroad (MCRR). Specifically, Mr. Coffin alleged that he worked as a bridge operator at the Carlton Bridge, which was built under the supervision of the Maine Department of Transportation and completed in 1929. During the time period that Mr. Coffin worked on the bridge, however, his employer, MCRR, was 100 percent …

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Court Declines to Find Coverage in World War II Era Asbestos Claim

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, January 22, 2021

This case is an insurance coverage dispute between plaintiff Cosmopolitan Shipping Co., Inc. and defendant Continental Insurance Company regarding claims made against Cosmopolitan by seamen exposed to asbestos on its ships in the 1940s. The policy at issue was unable to be located, apart from three endorsements. An evidentiary hearing was conducted to determine whether the policy provided coverage and what the terms of coverage were.

In September 2017, Cosmopolitan settled 47 …

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Railroad Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment Granted Because Plaintiff’s Expert Failed to Address Negligence

U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, January 22, 2021

James Jacobson, a long-time railroad worker, died of kidney cancer in 2015, and his widow brings this lawsuit pursuant to the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) on behalf of his estate. She alleges that his cancer was caused by the negligent use of known carcinogens by defendant BNSF Railway Company. The plaintiff identified one expert witness, Dr. Ernest Chiodo, as both a medical expert and liability expert. The railway defendant filed two motions: …

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Denial of Summary Judgment Upheld in Labor Law Action Against Port Authority

Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, First Department

In this matter, the plaintiff brought Labor Law § 200 and common law negligence claims against Defendant, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The decedent alleged that he developed malignant pleural sarcomatoid mesothelioma as a result of occupational exposure to asbestos at John F. Kennedy International Airport while he worked for Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) in the 1970s. The decedent passed away before he was able to be deposed. Judge Manuel Mendez, …

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Burner Defendant Granted Summary Judgment; No Evidence of Product Nexus

Superior Court of Rhode Island, Providence

In this matter, the decedent alleged asbestos exposure from his work as a plumbing and heating installer/repairer in the state of Maine from 1949 until 1966. Specific to this motion, the decedent installed Wayne burners, and converted Wayne burners from coal to oil. During this work, the decedent mixed asbestos powder and applied asbestos-containing mud to seal the tube of the burner.

With regard to the choice of law analysis, both parties agreed that Maine law should be applied …

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Case Remanded to State Court as Defendants Failed to Show Improper Joinder

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, January 13, 2021

Plaintiff Brent Deaville filed the within action in state court against numerous defendants in January 2020. The plaintiff alleged he contracted mesothelioma as a result of his exposure to asbestos while working as an insulator, plumber/pipefitter and mechanic at several facilities in Louisiana from the 1960s through 1990. On November 12, 2020, defendants Exxon Mobil Corp., Ferguson Enterprises, Inc. and J-M Manufacturing Co., Inc. removed this matter to federal court alleging diversity jurisdiction.…

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Jury Verdict Found Consistent as Exposure May Not Be Substantial Contributing Factor of Disease

Supreme Court of Louisiana, January 12, 2021

The plaintiffs sued various defendants alleging that the decedent (Bagwell) developed mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure which resulted in his death. At trial, the jury rendered a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs against the decedent’s employer, RMC, finding it 75 percent at fault. CAPCO, a non-party defendant, was found 25 percent at fault. The jury assigned no fault to Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) and Montello, Inc., the manufacturer and the distributor of asbestos-containing products. The trial court …

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Unopposed Motion to Dismiss Based on Lack of Personal Jurisdiction Granted for Automotive Suppliers

Supreme Court of New York, New York County, January 8, 2021

In this instant matter, defendants Genuine Parts Company and National Automotive Parts Association, LLC’s (defendants) move to dismiss this action against them pursuant to CPLR §3211(a)(8) on the grounds that the court lacked personal jurisdiction over them. The defendants argued that they were not subject to the jurisdiction of the New York court as they were not residents of New York State. In support of their motions, the defendants submitted affidavits from their representatives, …

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Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction Granted to Oven Manufacturer

Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County

The plaintiff alleged that the decedent, Harvey A. Fitzwater, who was allegedly diagnosed with mesothelioma on October 10, 2016, was exposed to asbestos from using ovens manufactured by defendant Baker Perkins from 1965-67 at several locations in Alaska and Washington State. Baker Perkins moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint, which was filed in the New York City Asbestos Litigation (New York County, New York), for lack of personal jurisdiction.

As to general jurisdiction, Baker …

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NYCAL Judge Grants Car Manufacturer Motion for Summary Judgment Based on Supporting Affidavit

Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County, January 6, 2021

The within matter was filed on behalf of the decedent, Patrick O’Sullivan, based on his alleged exposure to asbestos over the course of his career as a mechanic at various service stations throughout the 1970s. In 2012, the decedent died as a result of lung cancer allegedly caused by his exposure to asbestos. At his deposition, the decedent testified that he worked on Nissan branded vehicles in the 1970s, but he …

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