Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, First Department
In this asbestos action, Defendant Burnham (“Burnham”) moved to vacate the NYCAL Special Master’s ruling directing Burnham to appear for a deposition with regard to punitive damages. The trial court denied Burnham’s motion. Burnham subsequently appealed the trial court’s decision.
The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s decision. After noting the relevant portions of the NYCAL Case Management Order, the Appellate Division set forth that “[t]he Special Master providently exercised her discretion in directing Burnham to appear for deposition on punitive damages-related issues after finding that Burnham’s responses to plaintiffs’ standard punitive damages interrogatories were inadequate.” Indeed, the Appellate Division also providently exercised its discretion in denying the motion to vacate.
The Appellate Division rejected Burnham’s argument that punitive damages discovery should follow a finding that a defendant is liable to a plaintiff for punitive damages, which was based in non-asbestos or toxic tort decisions. Instead, the court noted “the exceptional needs of asbestos cases and litigants, which justified the CMO and its deviations, where necessary, from the CPLR in the first place.” Further, the Special Master’s finding that Burnham’s standard punitive damages interrogatories were inadequate justified the Special Master’s decision to direct Burnham to appear for a deposition. Thus, the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s decision.
Read the full decision here