“A Mississippi court has reversed a $322 million asbestos verdict against Union Carbide — believed to be the largest in U.S. history — after the judge failed to disclose his own father had pending asbestos litigation against the same company. … The jury ruled for Brown even though nine treating physicians, an independent medical examiner and an X-ray technician all testified that the plaintiff had no symptoms of asbestos-related disease.” [Daniel Fisher, Forbes; earlier here, here and here]
“Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder was dropped Tuesday from hearing all asbestos cases less than a week after her campaign committee received $30,000 in contributions from three metro-east asbestos law firms.” [Belleville News-Democrat, followup (says she'll return money); Chamber-backed Madison/St. Clair Record, followup]
Illinois courts may finally be tiring of liberal applications of “civil conspiracy” doctrine under which “Asbestos companies bear a sort of collective guilt and thus plaintiffs can sue companies they never actually had any contact with. Jurors in Bloomington have ordered up more than $120 million in damages against companies including Honeywell and Owens-Illinois, even though those companies never sold products to the plaintiffs, or employed them in their factories.” [Daniel Fisher, Forbes]
“In a motion filed Tuesday, attorneys for Union Carbide said Circuit Judge Eddie H. Bowen neglected to notify defense lawyers that his parents had been involved in similar asbestos litigation and had settled a case against Union Carbide.” A rural Mississippi jury earlier this month returned the largest asbestos verdict in American history, $322 million, against Union Carbide and other defendants. [AP/Stamford Advocate; Jackson Clarion-Ledger] More problems with verdict: Point of Law.
For years the Lone Star State led the nation in the volume of asbestos litigation filed in its courts, much of it dubious, but that has changed drastically in recent years. A new report from the Texas Civil Justice League (PDF) says the state’s reforms have worked well:
The great bulk of asbestos litigation in Texas resulted from entrepreneurial activity by lawyers who filed lawsuits on behalf of tens of thousands of people suffering no discernable illness. Enterprising lawyers then decided to replicate the asbestos-litigation model with silica litigation, again filing cases on behalf of thousands of people suffering no injury. With the passage of S.B. 15 in 2005, the Texas Legislature took a leading role in the national effort to end the abusive aspects of asbestos and silica litigation.
Claims without significant impairment were moved to an “inactive docket”, while cases alleging malignancy — which make up most of the docket of what are regarded as stronger asbestos cases — were expedited in several ways, particularly for claimants who were alive during the process. At the same time, Texas law and judicial practice were developing in other ways so as to allow easier dismissal of unmeritorious silica claims, and to hold asbestos claimants to a standard of causation more similar to that of other toxic torts (Borg-Warner v. Flores). The study examines and defends these developments as well. More: Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine.