Court, Sua Sponte, Refuses to Dismiss Thirteen Year Old Non-Malignancy Suit Superior Court of the Virgin Islands, Complex Litigation Division, October 30, 2018
In 2005, The plaintiff Samuel Holloway sued 29 companies including Hess Oil Virgin Islands Corporation (HOVIC) and Amerada Hess Corporation (Hess) through the Motley Rice firm, alleging non-malignant injuries arising from exposure to asbestos. Proofs of service on summons were never filed; only HOVIC and Hess appeared and answered the complaint, and at the same time filed crossclaims against all defendants. In 2006, a stipulation of dismissal with prejudice was entered as to HOVIC and Hess, but was silent as to their pending crossclaims. Also in 2006, Holloway stipulated to dismiss 7 named defendants without prejudice. The plaintiff did not address claims relating to the remaining 20 companies and John Doe defendants.
In a review of the file in 2010, the court issued orders to move the case forward and to attempt to discern the status of Holloway’s claims, and HOVIC and Hess’s crossclaims. Motley Rice no longer had an attorney admitted in the Virgin Islands, and withdrew referring the matter to local counsel. The court issued orders requiring the plaintiff to demonstrate proofs of service on defendants. Again the case went dormant, and orders to show cause were issued. Through local counsel, the former handling attorney from Motley Rice indicated that in their past investigation of Holloway’s claims, they had discovered that he had settled a separate action for asbestos exposure in the mid-90s, and had signed a sweeping release covering exposures to other dusts, and future injuries, including malignancies. Holloway was also compensated by various bankruptcy trusts. The former Motley Rice attorney recommended dismissal of the entire action.
The court reviewed the facts and procedural history to determine if they had authority to dismiss the entire action. The court determined that Holloway’s claims against certain defendants were still pending despite the dismissal of the other defendants, but only if Holloway served those defendants or if they voluntarily appeared. They further determined that HOVIC and Hess’s crossclaims may also still be pending, but only if Holloway served the defendants whom HOVIC and Hess had crossclaimed. The former Motley Rice attorney, HOVIC, and Hess were ordered to file proofs of service and to advise whether Holloway intended to pursue claims against remaining defendants.