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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Application of § 5 of Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) for Releases Remains Clear as Mud

Two plaintiffs in two jurisdictions bargain for settlement in asbestos related claims. Both agree to take money in exchange for a release of all future claims. Both later develop new diseases and sue the same defendant again. Only this time, one court finds the release unenforceable and the other court dismisses the complaint. No doubt the split that exists in federal circuits applying § 5 of FELA is confusing and remains fact intensive. The two predominant rules are found in Babbitt v. Norfolk & Western
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Madison County “Judicial Hellhole” Designation Sees Signs of Changing

Madison County, Illinois has traditionally been dubbed the “judicial hellhole” of asbestos litigation, but this designation shows signs of changing. In the first half of 2016, this venue had 29 percent of the nation’s asbestos filings. It has a history of unfair docketing practices, denial of forum non conveniens motions, and large plaintiff verdicts. Full-blown jury trials in asbestos litigation are rare for various reasons, not the least of which is the threat of multi-million dollar plaintiff verdicts, but in recent years Madison County jury…
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Personal Jurisdiction Decision by Missouri Supreme Court to Significantly Impact Asbestos Litigation in Missouri

St. Louis City, Missouri is often termed a “judicial hellhole” for corporate defendants in product liability actions, most notably in asbestos litigation. Until recently, Missouri courts offered little guidance on what constituted general jurisdiction for corporate defendants in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746 (2014). In Daimler, the Supreme Court held that absent exceptional circumstances, a company is only subject to general jurisdiction in its state of formation or where it has its principal…
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