Author Archives: Arlow M. Linton

Asbestos Defendants Face New Risk as Court Permits Punitive Damages in NYCAL Trials

On April 8, 2014, Justice Sherry Klein Heitler issued a decision permitting asbestos plaintiffs in New York County to seek punitive damages in asbestos trials — a departure from decades of prior practice in New York City Asbestos Litigation (NYCAL). For almost 20 years, the NYCAL Case Management Order (CMO) deferred indefinitely any trial of punitive damages in asbestos cases, until this past year when plaintiffs’ attorneys moved to modify the CMO to remove that deferral. The decision this week profoundly impacts industries embroiled in…

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Wisconsin Senate and Assembly Pass Asbestos Trust Disclosure Bill

Last week, Wisconsin came one step closer to joining Ohio and Oklahoma in passing asbestos trust disclosure legislation. On March 12, 2014, the Wisconsin Senate passed the bill by a narrow 17-16 vote. On March 20, the State’s Assembly voted 55-38 in favor of the bill, which now goes before Governor Scott Walker for consideration. Wisconsin’s AB 19 would require plaintiffs in asbestos lawsuits to provide a statement identifying all claims made against asbestos trusts, as well as all trust claims materials including claims forms…

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Rhode Island Court Allows Discovery of Bankruptcy Trust Filings

In Sweredoski v. Alfa Laval Inc. (No. 2011-1544, R.I. Super., Providence Plantation), a Rhode Island Superior Court reversed its prior holding and found that plaintiff’s bankruptcy trust filings were discoverable, albeit for a limited purpose.  In November 2013, Judge Alice B. Gibney denied defendant Crane Co.’s motion to compel the filings but ordered an in camera review of the filings to determine whether they may lead to discoverable evidence. Crane moved for reconsideration. Upon reconsideration, plaintiff argued that the bankruptcy filings were not discoverable…

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Jury Apportions 80 Percent of Liability to Smoking History

In Kinser v. Anchor Packing Co. (No. 94-2282, C.D. Ill.), the plaintiff sued a number of companies in U.S. District Court alleging that their conduct caused him to be exposed to asbestos, resulting in his diagnosis of lung cancer.  The plaintiff alleged that he worked in the vicinity of insulation applied to turbines that were supplied and erected by Westinghouse Electric Corp. at the Commonwealth Edison nuclear power plant in Zion, Illinois. Westinghouse was the only remaining defendant at the time of trial and brought…

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Judge Sets Garlock’s Future Liabilities at $125 Million; Garlock Sues Plaintiffs’ Firms for Fraud

Garlock Sealing Technologies has been awaiting a U.S. Bankruptcy Court’s determination as to how much money will they will need to place in trust for future asbestos claimants since its bankruptcy trial concluded in August 2013. As previously reported by Risky Business, Garlock filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2010, seeking the formation of an asbestos trust to assume all future liability related to its manufacture of asbestos-containing gaskets. Garlock proposed putting $125 million into that trust; a number of asbestos plaintiffs’ firms,…

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House Passes Asbestos Claim Transparency Bill

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act by a narrow margin. As previously reported in Risky Business, the legislation amends the Bankruptcy Code to require asbestos trusts to file quarterly reports that detail claimants’ names, the amount paid to each claimant and the basis for such payment. The stated goal is to allow the over 60 asbestos trusts with over $40 billion in total assets to compare claims and prevent plaintiffs from making fraudulent and inconsistent filings.…

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Maryland: Failure to Allow Apportionment of Causes of Lung Cancer is Reversible Error

Maryland’s second highest court recently held that the trial court’s failure to allow expert testimony regarding the relative contribution of cigarette smoking as a cause of plaintiff’s lung cancer was reversible error and remanded for a new trial. In The Wallace & Gale Settlement Trust v. Sonia Carter, et. al. (No. 84, September Term, 2013, Md. App.), a Baltimore-based insulation contractor appealed verdicts rendered against it in four consolidated asbestos matters on a variety of grounds. In one of the cases, Roger C. Hewitt sued…

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CSX Awarded Triple Damages on Allegations of Fraudulent Asbestos Claims

The U.S. District Court in the Northern District of West Virginia recently tripled a jury’s near $430,000 jury verdict pursuant to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) against two former members of Pittsburgh’s Robert Peirce & Associates, an asbestos plaintiff’s firm, and radiologist Ray Harron. CSX Transportation brought suit five years ago alleging that attorneys Robert Peirce and Louis Raimond conspired with Harron, who lost his medical license in 2007 amid accusations of fraudulent diagnoses, to manufacture hundreds of claims, eleven of…

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Pennsylvania Narrows Its Rejection Of Every Exposure Theory

In July, Risky Business reported on two more jurisdictions rejecting the “every exposure” causation theory. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected the theory years ago; but now, a Superior Court has narrowed that rejection and left a door open which may lead to every exposure-like theories being reintroduced into the asbestos litigation landscape. In Campbell v. A.W. Chesterton Inc. (No. 2005 EDA 2012; Pa. Super. Ct.), a Pennsylvania Appellate Court upheld a $1.29 million verdict where the only defendant held liable argued that plaintiff’s expert…

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Garlock’s Bankruptcy Trial Closes – Only Decision on Value of Future Liability Remains

In 2010, Garlock Sealing Technologies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection seeking the formation of an asbestos trust to assume any future liability related to its manufacture of asbestos-containing gaskets. The case, filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of North Carolina, finally went to trial in July and wrapped up after three weeks of testimony. Now, one key decision rests in the hands of Judge George Hodges – how much money will Garlock need to place in trust for future…

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