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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Asbestos Litigation Remains Strong Impetus for Inclusion on Judicial Hellhole Jurisdiction List

Last month, the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) issued its always anticipated annual report on Judicial Hellholes. Not surprisingly, asbestos litigation remained a common engine driving the same familiar jurisdictions to repeated billing on the list. ATRA’s report attempts to shine a light on the conduct of all tort litigation in the United States, with attention to the uneven application of equal justice under the law, pretrial rulings, decisions during trial, unreasonable expansions of liability, and reflections on judicial integrity. Below, we’ll offer a…
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New Behrens Article Proposes Legislation to Promote Bankruptcy Trust Transparency & Fairness to All Parties

In most cases asserting asbestos-related injuries resulting from alleged exposure, the plaintiffs will also file proof of claims (POCs) with asbestos bankruptcy trusts. These trusts are set up when companies that mined or supplied asbestos or manufactured asbestos-containing products can no longer afford to defend a barrage of costly asbestos-exposure lawsuits and, accordingly, file for bankruptcy. The primary goals of the trusts are to compensate plaintiffs for exposure to products for which insolvent entitles are liable in a less costly and more efficient manner and…
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First-of-its-Kind Epidemiology Study Establishes a Lack of Pleural Mesothelioma Risk From Ambient Asbestos Exposure Levels

In nearly every asbestos trial, the plaintiffs’ experts will invariably compare asbestos exposure levels from defendants’ products to airborne concentrations of asbestos in the ambient air. The apparent purpose of such a comparison is to provide a bare semblance of quantitative rigor to otherwise unsupported causation opinions. However, such an argument depends in part on taking a position that the risk from exposure to ambient asbestos levels caries some minute, but unquantifiable, level of risk. The plaintiffs’ experts correctly note that because every living human…
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St. Louis City – The Gateway Arch to Mammoth Talc Verdicts

MISSOURI – The city of St. Louis, Missouri, has traditionally been an unfavorable venue for defendants, particularly for those involved in allegations of personal injury or death due to cancer caused by asbestos or talc exposure. Until recently, these two causative agents – asbestos and talc – were separate materials for purposes of personal injury or wrongful death claims. In July 2018 these two theories merged in the first trial which heard that plaintiffs’ claims of ovarian cancer were caused in part by asbestos-contaminated talc.…
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Removal Under Federal Enclave Jurisdiction Deemed Timely U.S.D.C. for the Western District of Pennsylvania, June 28, 2018

PENNSYLVANIA — The plaintiff, Harald Mehnert, filed suit in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, alleging he suffered from mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure incurred while working on Mass Spectrometers at the U.S. Geological Survey Department in Denver, Colorado, from 1959 to 1995. He filed suit on November 27, 2017 and all defendants were served with process by January 17, 2018. The complaint did not allege the location of the plaintiff’s work. On April 3, 2018, the plaintiff served answers to interrogatories indicating that…
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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…
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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…
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Pennsylvania’s Long Arm Statute and its Effect on Personal Jurisdiction

In the wake of the Daimler, BNSF, and Bristol-Myers Squibb opinions recently issued by the U.S. Supreme Court, defendants in asbestos cases throughout the country have been challenging personal jurisdiction with greater success. Yet, Pennsylvania remains a difficult jurisdiction for defendants to assert the defense, due to Pennsylvania’s long arm statute. No Pennsylvania state appellate court or federal court has yet ruled on the general personal jurisdiction issue in an asbestos case since the Bristol-Myers Squibb opinion was issued. In the meantime, a split…
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A Look Back at the Bare Metal Defense in 2017

In the past year, the bare metal defense continued to see some variance from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, with at least one federal appellate court taking up an issue for further clarification late in the year. The bare metal or component parts defense essentially provides that a manufacturer is not liable for harm caused by asbestos products that the manufacturer did not manufacture or distribute, and owes no duty to warn of the hazards inherent to those products. It is viewed in some jurisdictions in the…
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