Upcoming Developments in Asbestos Litigation — in Pennsylvania and Nationally

With 2019 now in its second month, there are a number of imminent developments on which members of the asbestos bar should keep an eye. While this post will primarily focus on litigation in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, it touches on one national topic as well. The following is a summary of four important pending events: First Talc Trial in Philadelphia Trial of the first talc mesothelioma case in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas begins this week. The plaintiff alleges the decedent, Sally Brandt, developed…
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Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand Deined Due to Fraudulent Joinder of Talc Defendant U.S. District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division, February 14, 2019

MISSOURI — The plaintiff Shawnee D. Douglas originally filed suit against multiple entities, contending that her use of talc product caused her malignant mesothelioma. Johnson & Johnson (J&J) removed the case to federal court on the grounds that diversity of citizenship exists because, inter alia, the only Missouri-based defendant, PTI Union, was “fraudulently joined.” Numerous motions were filed by the parties, including: Imerys Talc America, Inc.’s Motion to Dismiss the plaintiff’s Petition for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction, the plaintiff’s Emergency Motion to Remand with…
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Imerys Talc America, Inc., Imerys Talc Vermont, Inc., and Imerys Talc Canada Inc. Seek Bankruptcy Protection United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, February 13, 2019

DELWARE — Yesterday, Imerys Talc America, Inc., Imerys Talc Vermont, Inc., and Imerys Talc Canada Inc. filed a petition to seek bankruptcy protection under U.S. Chapter 11. In support of their petition, the Imerys entities referenced “significant potential liabilities as a result of thousands of claims by plaintiffs alleging personal injuries caused by exposure to talc mined, processed, and/or distributed by one or more of the Debtors” as a factor leading to the filing. According to the petition, the entities face 13,800 pending ovarian cancer…
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$14 Million Verdict Upheld Against Chemical Plant Defendant South Carolina Court of Appeals, February 13, 2019

SOUTH CAROLINA — A $14 million verdict against Celanese Corporation was upheld on appeal in the mesothelioma case of 70 year old deceased the plaintiff Dennis Seay.  Seay did maintenance and repair work in a Celanese plant as a contractor for Daniel Construction for nine years in the 1970s. In 2015, a South Carolina jury found that Celanese was negligent in running the plant and awarded Seay $12 million dollars in compensatory damages and $2 million dollars in punitive damages. The appellate court disagreed with…
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Failure to Establish Admissible Exposure Evidence Leads to Summary Judgment for Railroad Defendant Court of Appeals of Tennessee, February 12, 2019

TENNESSEE — The plaintiff filed suit against Norfolk Southern Railroad Company (Norfolk) under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) alleging he developed lung cancer as a result of occupational exposure to asbestos. Specifically, the plaintiff worked as a brakeman, trainman, and locomotive engineer from 1965-1999. The plaintiff passed from lung cancer in 2003 and his wife was substituted as the plaintiff. Of interest, the plaintiff’s decedent smoked beginning at age 13 and smoked up to one pack of cigarettes per day at times until 2000.…
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Assertion of Innocent Seller Defense Leads to Dismissal of Auto Supplier in Mesothelioma Matter United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division, February 11, 2019

MISSISSIPPI — The plaintiff filed suit against A-1 Auto Parts and Repair (A-1) alleging he developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos from his work as a mechanic and exposure to talcum powder. A-1 moved for dismissal under Federal Rule 12 (b) 6 arguing that it was an “innocent seller” under Mississippi Products Liability Law (MPLA). The plaintiff did not respond or oppose the motion. The MPLA states that a seller shall not be liable for claims unless the “seller or designer exercised…
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Summary Judgment Granted for Crane Co. in Maritime Action U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Western Division February 12, 2019

OHIO — The plaintiff sued Crane Co. and other defendants based upon his alleged exposure to asbestos while serving in the Navy from 1960 to 1967. Crane filed for summary judgment on plaintiff’s maritime law strict liability negligence claims. The court applied the Lindstrom standard. Despite the plaintiff’s urging, the court did not adopt a fact-specific standard with regard to the bare metal defense, instead applying the Sixth Circuit’s bright line rule. The court found that the plaintiff failed to put forth any evidence of…
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$2.38 Million Dollar Verdict Reached in Action Brought on Behalf of Chemical Compounder New Jersey Superior Court for Middlesex County, February 12, 2019

NEW JERSEY — A New Jersey State case, Thomasenia L. Fowler v. Akzo Nobel Chemicals, Inc., et al., No. MID-L-4820-11AS (N.J. Super. Ct., Middlesex Cty.), which was previously covered by ACT, has ended in a plaintiff’s verdict against a raw fiber supplier. On January 22, a Middlesex County jury returned a $2.38 Million dollar verdict in favor of the plaintiff, Thomasina Fowler, individually and as administrator of the estate of Willis Edenfield, but declined to award any punitive damages during the trial’s second phase.…
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Motion for Nonsuit Granted in Los Angeles Talc Trial California Superior Court for Los Angeles County February 5, 2019

CALIFORNIA — Following a four-week trial, nonsuit was entered just prior to closing arguments in a talc mesothelioma trial venued in Los Angeles state court. At the conclusion of the plaintiffs’ case, Colgate-Palmolive moved for nonsuit, arguing that the plaintiffs had failed to present a prima facie case linking the use of Cashmere Bouquet talcum products to the plaintiff’s injury. The plaintiffs responded by arguing that they only had to prove that fibers from the defendant’s product contributed to the aggregate dose of asbestos to…
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Partial Motion to Dismiss Granted in Favor of Detroit Diesel Corporation U.S.D.C. for the Southern District of Mississippi, February 8, 2019

MISSISSIPPI — Detroit Diesel Corporation moved to dismiss certain claims filed against them by the plaintiffs, who alleged that William Dickens developed mesothelioma following exposure to Detroit Diesel engines from 1980 to 2010. The motion to dismiss was unopposed. Detroit Diesel moved to dismiss four alternative theories of liability not recognized under Mississippi law: enterprise liability, market-share liability, concert of action and alternative liability. The court recognized that these claims were not viable under Mississippi law and granted that portion of the motion, with prejudice.…
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Preclusion of Plaintiff Experts Leads to Defense Win in First Philly Talc Trial Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, February 8, 2019

PENNSYLVANIA – The plaintiff Charles Brandt (plaintiff), on behalf of the decedent Sally Brandt (decedent), commenced an asbestos-related action against, among other defendants, Colgate-Palmolive Company (Colgate), alleging that the decedent’s use of Colgate’s Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder exposed the decedent to asbestos, resulting in her mesothelioma diagnosis. Following a Frye hearing, the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas precluded the expert opinions of the plaintiff’s geologist and pathologist, finding numerous methodological flaws in their research claiming asbestos was found in Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder. Colgate…
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