Maritime Law Applied to Plaintiffs’ Claims and State Court Filing Retained Plaintiffs’ Right to a Jury Trial U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, October 21, 2015

In this federal court case, defendant Crane asserted that state law should apply to some aspects of plaintiffs’ claims, while the parties appeared to agree that maritime law applied generally to the matter.  The court examined this case sua sponte on the issue of whether maritime or state law governed the remaining claims of the plaintiffs, and whether the plaintiffs have a right to a jury trial.  The court found that maritime law applied and trial would be before a jury. In applying the locality…
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Talc Manufacturer’s Motion to Quash Granted Based on Lack of Specific Personal Jurisdiction Superior Court of California, County of Los Angles, October 16, 2015

In this California case, the plaintiffs allege that the decedent, Oscar Villanueva, was exposed to asbestos contaminated talc from the use of Old Spice Talcum powder.   Defendant Whittaker, Clark & Daniels, Inc. (WCD) was one of the suppliers of talc to Shulton, Inc. (Shulton), the former manufacturer of the Old Spice product. WCD moved to quash for lack of personal jurisdiction and the court allowed plaintiffs the opportunity of jurisdictional discovery. Following the discovery, the court granted WCD’s motion to quash. In its analysis, the…
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Case Remanded Based on Dismissal and Settlement of Defendants with Federal Defenses U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, October 20, 2015

This case was originally filed in the Third Judicial Circuit in Madison County. The defendant, Crane Co., removed based on the Federal Officer Removal Statute 28 U.S.C. 1442(a)(1) and defendant General Electric Company (GE) joined in. The plaintiff moved to remand the case and GE was the only defendant to oppose. Prior to the court rendering a decision, GE was dismissed from the case and Crane settled. CBS Corporation then filed a notice of joinder or removal, which the court found untimely. The court granted…
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Merchant Mariner Plaintiffs’ Allegations Focusing on Vessel Operation — Instead of Vessel Design — Prohibited Removal Under Federal Officer Removal Statute U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Louisiana, October 19, 2015

This is a consolidated case in which various plaintiffs alleged asbestos exposure while working as merchant mariners aboard many different vessels and employers. Each plaintiff also served on at least one Navy ship. The plaintiffs sued their former employers in Louisiana state court under the Jones Act and general maritime law. The defendants removed to federal court, and the district court remanded. The 5th Circuit held that remand was proper. The defendants argued for removal under the Federal Officer Removal Statute, in which actions…
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Jury Returns Defense Verdict for John Crane, But Awards $14 million against Celanese

On October 8, 2015, a South Carolina jury found Texas-based materials company Celanese Corp. liable in a lawsuit brought by the family of a maintenance worker who died of cancer after being exposed to asbestos at one of Celanese’s plants in the 1970s. After two weeks of trial, the jury unanimously awarded the family of Dennis Seay $12 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages as a result of Celanese’s negligence. John Crane, the second defendant in the case and the maker…
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Experts Deem New Legislation in Oregon Insufficient, Call for Stricter Asbestos Rules

On October 19, 2015, Oregon environmental regulators invited two dozen asbestos experts to a meeting in an effort to determine the best way to implement a new law that would require contractors to investigate for asbestos when demolishing a house. The group, however, went far beyond the scope of this approved legislation, determining that contractors should provide documented proof that they’ve checked for asbestos before a demolition, that asbestos work done by homeowners should no longer be exempt, and that the rule should apply to…
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California Jury Returns Complete Defense Verdict in Mesothelioma Claim

On October 7, 2015, the Alameda County Superior Court in California found in favor of defendant John Crane Inc. in an asbestos exposure lawsuit. The plaintiff, James Harkin, had asserted that his mesothelioma was caused by exposure to asbestos from valve packing manufactured by John Crane Inc. and brought several asbestos-related product liability claims.  He further argued that his mesothelioma additionally occurred as a result of working in the presence of Oscar E. Erickson employees while they disturbed asbestos containing materials at an oil refinery.…
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UK Parliamentary Group Declares Final War on Asbestos, Calls for Complete and Accelerated Eradication

In Britain, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health (“the Group”) is demanding legislation that will work to completely eliminate asbestos from buildings in the UK.  The Group wants to put regulations in place that will require the safe, phased, and planned removal of asbestos in every workplace in Britain.  It also wants asbestos reports included in all home-buyers’ surveys and a national program of asbestos surveys. In its recommendations, the Group wants to require that all commercial, public, and rented domestic premises…
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A Call for an Evidence Based Approach in Asbestos Lung Cancer Cases: Better Late Than Never?

My friend and colleague Laura Kingsley Hong recently authored an article entitled “Controversies Regarding The Role of Asbestos Exposure in the Causation of Lung Cancer: The Need for An Evidence Based Approach,” which appeared in Mealey’s Litigation Report. Ms. Hong’s commentary ties together current medicolegal concepts that are applied in virtually every scientifically-based litigation to longstanding but evolving scientific issues in asbestos litigation. While this is a debate that needs to happen, it raises the interesting question of why now and why not before? In…
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Federal Court Remands Action Based on Equity Even Though Removal Was Proper on Bankruptcy Issue U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, October 13, 2015

In this federal court case, the plaintiffs commenced an action against various defendants for the alleged asbestos exposure and development of mesothelioma for decedent, George Fenicle.  Following decedent’s death, plaintiffs amended their complaint to name Boise Cascade Company and OfficeMax (“Defendants”). The defendants subsequently removed the matter to federal court under 28 U.S.C. 1441, for putative federal question jurisdiction, and 28 U.S.C. 1452, as a bankruptcy-related action. The plaintiffs moved to remand, arguing removal was improper since the defendants did not seek approval from all…
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