Category Archives: Litigation

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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New Hope for Asbestos Defendants in Preventing Fraud

For years, asbestos defendants have suspected plaintiffs have been withholding evidence about similar asbestos claims they filed against other companies, thereby maximizing settlements or verdicts against each individual company. Specifically, defense attorneys have worried that by disingenuously claiming they only have viable claims against a single company, plaintiffs were able to maximize their recovery from that company. In In Re Garlock Sealing Technologies, LLC, 2014 Bankr. LEXIS 156 (Bankr. W.D.N.C. Jan. 10, 2014), a North Carolina bankruptcy case, the Court recently allowed perennial asbestos defendant,…

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Consumer’s Individual and Proposed Class Action Claims of Mislabeling of Organic Foods Found Preempted by Federal Law by a California Appellate Court

The food industry received welcome news late last month when a California state appellate court in Los Angeles affirmed a trial court finding that a proposed class action against a federally certified, organic food grower could not proceed because the claims were preempted by federal law, specifically the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (“OFPA”).  In Quesada v. Herb Thyme Farms, Inc., 222 Cal.App.4th 642 (Cal. App. 2d Dist., 3d Dep’t, Dec. 23, 2013), the plaintiff, Michelle Quesada, sued on her own behalf…

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U.S. Supreme Court Draws the Line on Where Corporations Can Be Sued in the U.S.

This week the U.S. Supreme Court made strides for large nationwide and worldwide companies, protecting reasonable limits on where those companies may be sued in the U.S. In Daimler AG v. Bauman, No. 11-965 (U.S. January 14, 2014), the court unanimously held California state courts did not have jurisdiction over the international Daimler corporation based on the heavy market contacts of one of its subsidiaries in that state. In the Daimler case, Argentinian citizens brought suit against the German Daimler corporation in California state court.…

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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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Class Actions and Judicial Economy

The United States Supreme Court has been asked to determine whether a class may be certified when most of its members never experienced the alleged defect and damages would have to be litigated on a member-by-member basis. Two similar Circuit Court cases presently involve a class of plaintiffs who allege that a defect in washing machines manufactured by Whirlpool Corporation caused moldy odors to develop. The Seventh Circuit in Butler v. Sears Roebuck and Co. overturned the district court’s denial of a class certification based…

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Negligently Maintained Tractor-Trailer Leads to $281 Million Dollar Wrongful Death and Punitive Damages Verdict

On December 5, 2013, a South Texas jury awarded $181 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages to the family of a deceased driver who was killed when in May 2012, the drive shaft of a tractor-trailer he was driving behind broke off and shot out from behind the truck through the windshield of the pickup truck in which Carlos Aguilar was riding. The tractor-trailer was owned by Heckmann Water Resources, one of the largest companies dedicated to the removal, treatment…

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Beginnings of Success Using Federal Racketeering Statute to Combat Fraudulent Lawsuits

As this blog reported earlier this month, national freight and railroad company, CSX Transportation, recently succeeded in using the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) to obtain triple damages from a Pennsylvania law firm that brought a slew of fraudulent asbestos lawsuits against it. Now, multinational energy corporation, Chevron, looks to follow on the heels of CSX’s success in an action against noted Manhattan plaintiffs’ attorney, Steven Donziger, for bringing an allegedly fraudulent environmental lawsuit against the company in Ecuador…

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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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Pennsylvania Court Rules That Arbitration Agreement Valid In Nursing Home Case

In Lipshutz v. St. Monica Manor, the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas recently held that the plaintiff’s survival action regarding her mother’s death from nursing home negligence must be handled via arbitration. The plaintiff had actually signed an agreement with the nursing home, which states such a claim will be handled out of court. Furthermore, the Court referenced the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), which pre-empts the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure that requires wrongful death and survival claims to be litigated together.  The Court’s opinion…

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