Defendants Successfully Argue to Apply More Favorable Tennessee Laws Limiting Damages in Rhode Island Asbestos Case

In this case, the plaintiff worked and lived in the state of Tennessee for his entire life, with the exception of one year living in Maryland while working at Bethlehem Steel. The majority of his asbestos exposure occurred in Tennessee, which is also where he was diagnosed and treated for mesothelioma. The court had previously granted the motions of various defendants to apply Tennessee law. In the instant motion, defendants asked the court to take judicial notice of four areas of the law where that they contended Tennessee should apply: modified comparative fault; statutory cap on damages; “nonparty defense”; and  “innocent retailer statute.” The nonparty defense allows the trier of fact to allocate fault to a nonparty to the suit, including an immune third party or settled party. The innocent retailer statute states that a plaintiff may bring an action against a seller or distributor of such asbestos-containing products if they can satisfy one of five conditions set forth in Tenn. Code Ann. 29-28-106.

The court analyzed the standard of review and stated that the determination of foreign laws shall be made by the court and not by the jury. The court, in taking judicial notice of the four areas of law as requested by defendants, further analyzed substantive versus procedural law and stated: “[A]ll of the relevant areas of law raised by the Defendants can properly be classified as substantive because they all relate to the issue of damages.”

Read the full decision here.