New Jersey Supreme Court to Review Apportioned Asbestos Verdict in Meso Case
NEW JERSEY — The New Jersey Supreme Court will review whether a recent judgment reduced by allocation amongst 9 companies should be retried. The judgment was rendered in favor of a widow, Donna Rowe, whose husband died of mesothelioma. Mr. Rowe allegedly came into contact with asbestos products while repairing and installing heating equipment. Several defendants settled and therefore did not attend trial. As a result, the trial court admitted certified discovery answers and deposition testimony as the settling defendants’ witnesses were determined to be unavailable. The verdict was apportioned 20% against Universal Engineering Company and 80 % against the settled defendants. Afterwards, an appeal panel found that the evidence as to the settling defendants was barred as hearsay. Universal had previously taken the position that the evidence as to the settling defendants was admissible under the party opponent exception. The appeal panel hinted that the issue is not the status of the parties but rather the admissibility of the discovery from the beginning and whether those settled defendants were in fact unavailable. Universal sought cross claims against the co-defendants under the Joint Tortfeasors Act. In her appeal, Ms. Rowe has invoked a 1991 ruling which throws out a non-settling defendant’s cross claim against settling defendants. Asbestos Case Tracker will follow this appeal and report the court’s decision.