Author Archives: Joseph Welter

3d rendered illustration - male brain

District of Columbia Adopts Rule 702 Standard in Cell Phone Brain Tumor Cases

On October 20, 2016, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals abandoned the long-used Dyas/Frye test to govern the admissibility of expert testimony in favor of the standards embodied in Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. The court issued its decision after the lower court permitted plaintiff expert opinions linking cell phone use to brain tumors under the then-existing Dyas/Frye standard. In the matter of Motorola Inc. v. Henry, plaintiffs in thirteen cases had sued numerous cell phone manufacturers, service providers…

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New Jersey Rules No Scientific Connection Between Talc and Ovarian Cancer

This year, an emerging legal and scientific battle is brewing across the country as to whether use of talc products by women in the perineal area can lead to ovarian cancer. While the FDA has stated there is no established casual connection and those products remain on the market, two St. Louis courts permitted plaintiffs’ experts to testify as to a causal connection, which resulted in juries awarded $72 million and $55 million against Johnson and Johnson. Those verdicts have led to a spike in…

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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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Supreme Court to Decide Whether Parent Company Potentially “Exposed” to Asbestos Liability for Bankrupt Subsidiary

Pfizer, Inc. petitioned the Supreme Court to reverse a Second Circuit decision that the ban on asbestos litigation of a subsidiary company does not apply to a claims against a parent company.  In an amicus brief, the U.S. Solicitor General argued that the Second Circuit decision should be upheld.  The plaintiff’s theory against Pfizer is that it authorized the use of its name and trademark to be used on its subsidiary’s products that allegedly contained asbestos.  The plaintiff argues that this conduct gives rise to…

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New York Asbestos Plaintiffs’ Firms Move to End Deferment of Punitive Damages

On March 5, 2013, twelve plaintiffs’ firms served a joint motion in New York County Supreme Court seeking to end the automatic deferral of punitive damages in asbestos cases.  Since 1996, when the deferment of punitive damages claims was first included in the standing case management order in the New York County Asbestos Litigation (NYCAL), no jury in that venue has heard a punitive damages claim and no punitive damages have been awarded.  The joint motion argues that the landscape in NYCAL has dramatically changed…

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New York Jury Awards $35 Million Asbestos Verdict, Finds Recklessness

In Peraica v. Crane Co., (No. 190339/11, N.Y. Sup., New York Co.), a New York County jury awarded $35 million in pain and suffering damages to the estate of a decedent that died of mesothelioma in December 2012.  Plaintiffs alleged that John Peraica contracted the disease as a result of his work as an insulator from 1978 to 2004.  Although numerous defendants were a party to the lawsuit (nearly 40 appeared on the verdict sheet), only Crane Co. remained at trial.  As they often…

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Philadelphia Court Readopts Protocols that Lead to 70% Reduction in Mass-Tort Filings

Earlier this month, the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, Common Court of Philadelphia issued an order reaffirming certain transitional working rules with respect to mass tort filings.  The transitional working rules, or protocols, were initially adopted on February 15, 2012 to address concerns that the mass tort inventory was experiencing explosive growth.  The order noted that in the last six years the pending inventory rose from 2,542 cases to 5,302 cases, and that the 2011 year-end inventory of 6,174 cases burdened court resources and required…

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