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Articles Posted in Companies & Asbestos

A Louisiana federal judge recently denied a motion by the Ford Motor Co. which sought to throw out the asbestos cancer lawsuit, brought on behalf of the now deceased victim, alleging the automaker and others are responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries. While the same judge did rule partly in favor of Ford in limiting some of the claims brought against the company, the other asbestos-related claims may proceed against Ford and other named defendants.

According to the mesothelioma cancer lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the  Eastern District of Louisiana, the victim developed peritoneal mesothelioma during his work as a mechanic and generator service technician. After filing his asbestos cancer lawsuit in a Louisiana state court in 2017, the case was removed to federal court the following year. Sadly, the victim passed away from his asbestos related cancer in 2018, leaving his surviving family to continue to action under a wrongful death claim.

In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs made claims against the Ford Motor Co. under Louisiana’s general negligence statute, employer liability statute, premises liability as owners of the premises where the victim worked, and product liability laws for manufacturing the asbestos laden products. In seeking to skirt liability, Ford claimed the plaintiffs were barred from recovering for any damages under the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act (LWCA) because the alleged injuries took place during the course of the victim’s employment.

A Delaware federal judge recently denied a request by pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson to remove thousands of asbestos cancer lawsuits from various state courts and place them all under the purview of a single jurisdiction. Johnson & Johnson made the request after its co-defendant and talc supplier in the lawsuits, Imerys Talc USA, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection under the weight of the litigation the two companies faced.

Johnson & Johnson had sought to invoke legal protections afforded to Imerys as a means to collect the estimated 2,400 talcum powder lawsuits under one federal judge and form a single defense strategy. Those claims alleged that Johnson & Johnson and Imerys Talc USA were responsible for the plaintiffs’ injuries due to the presence of asbestos fibers about which the two defendants knew but failed to provide any warnings to consumers.

Fortunately for the plaintiffs, who have yet to have their day in court, the judge hearing the motion denied Johnson & Johnson’s request. In her ruling the judge noted that “J&J cannot establish an emergency” tied to Imerys’ bankruptcy-reorganization effort. The judge went on to note that “J&J’s desire to centralize its own state-law litigation does not justify the finding of an emergency” requiring immediate transfer.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently handed down a significant ruling in a mesothelioma lawsuit in which it held that companies may be held liable when third party components necessary for a product’s operation cause injury.  The case was originally brought by two Navy veterans and their wives against Air & Liquid Systems Corp. and four other manufacturers of equipment used on Navy ships that required asbestos parts to function as intended.

According to the mesothelioma cancer lawsuit, the plaintiffs developed their illnesses due to years of asbestos exposure aboard Navy ships. The victims blamed the exposure on components manufactured by third parties designed to fit equipment made by the defendants. The plaintiffs argued that since the defendants knew their equipment required products manufactured with asbestos by third parties, they should have provided warnings and are therefore liable for the exposure.

In their defense, Air & Liquid Systems Corp. and the other defendants relied on what is known as a “bare metal” defense, arguing that they delivered their products to the Navy without any asbestos and did not manufacture the carcinogenic parts. However, the Supreme Court did not accept the defendants’ arguments, instead relying on established maritime law that extends special protections to Navy veterans.

Pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson may be the sole defendant in an estimated 12,700 talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuits after its main talc supplier recently filed for bankruptcy under the weight of thousands of such cases across the country. Imerys Talc USA, which had supplied Johnson & Johnson with talc sourced from overseas mines, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in a Delaware federal court and was subsequently released as a defendant from a nearly two-month trial in California state court.

“After carefully evaluating all possible options, we determined pursuing Chapter 11 protection is the best course of action to address our historic talc-related liabilities and position the companies for continued growth,” Imerys Talc America President Giorgio La Motta said in a statement. Under the law, companies who file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy are protected from litigation, a move that allows the insolvent company to reorganize and determine the best way to settle claims with creditors.

Legal experts have speculated that after juries handed down multi-billion dollar verdicts in 2018, Imerys Talc USA essentially saw the writing on the wall and chose to insulate itself from potentially billions more in verdicts. In just a handful of trials last year, juries handed down a combined excess of $5 billion in plaintiffs verdicts, including a $4.7 billion award from a Missouri state court to 22 plaintiffs or their estates who claimed to have suffered serious health complications as a result of asbestos in Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products.

A New York state appeals court recently heard arguments in a case brought by a plaintiff who claims he developed mesothelioma cancer after he signed a settlement release with the company he accused of causing his mesothelioma cancer by exposure to asbestos. The New York Court of Appeals will decide whether part of the Federal Employer’s Liability Act negates a settlement release signed by the plaintiff in the case nearly two-decades ago and allow his claim against his previous employer to move forward.

The plaintiff in the case originally brought his asbestos lawsuit against Texaco in 2014, claiming he developed mesothelioma cancer while he served as a seaman in the Merchant Marine for nearly 40 years. The plaintiff had filed a previous lawsuit against Texaco, along with more than 100 other individuals, in federal court during the 1990s over a pulmonary injury suffered from exposure to asbestos and second-hand smoke on merchant ships.

Texaco and the plaintiff resolved the first claim, with the plaintiff and other co-plaintiffs signing settlement releases which sought to discharge the company from any future liability over the health effects of asbestos exposure. The settlement release read in part the plaintiff “understands that the long term effects of exposure to asbestos … may result in obtaining a new and different diagnosis from the diagnosis as of the date of this release.”

A New York state Supreme Court judge recently issued an important ruling allowing a mesothelioma cancer lawsuit against cigarette manufacturer R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and its supplier Hollingsworth & Vose. The mesothelioma cancer lawsuit claims that the defendants knew or should have known the asbestos contained in their cigarette filters were dangerous and could cause serious health problems for consumers.

According to the asbestos cancer lawsuit, filed in the Supreme Court of New York County, the plaintiff developed pleural mesothelioma as a result of smoking Kent brand cigarettes, marketed and sold by R.J. Reynolds with materials sourced by Hollingsworth & Vose, in the 1950s. The plaintiff alleges the filters in those cigarettes contained asbestos, which the defendants were aware could cause health complications.

The defendants filed various motions to have the case thrown out of court and dismissed without a trial, claiming they should not be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries because the health effects of asbestos exposure were not widely known at the time the plaintiff smoked Kent brand cigarettes. Asbestos has only been regulated by the federal government since the 1970s, but due to its widespread use before restrictions were adopted, many companies were fully aware that their asbestos laden products posed a danger to the general public.

A California state jury is slated to hear opening arguments in an asbestos talcum powder lawsuit filed against pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson over allegations that the company knew for decades about the health risks associated with its talc-based products. The asbestos cancer lawsuit names Johnson & Johnson and its supplier, Imerys Talc USA, as defendants and seeks compensation for past and future medical bills, lost wages, and the pain and suffering of living with the mesothelioma cancer diagnosis.

According to the talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuit, filed in Alameda County California Superior Court, the plaintiff developed mesothelioma from years of using asbestos-contaminated talcum powder products developed and manufactured by Johnson & Johnson with materials sourced by Imerys Talc USA. The lawsuit claims that despite knowing for decades about the health risks of asbestos exposure from tainted talcum powder, Johnson & Johnson continued to market and sell these same products without any warning labels for consumers.

The trial is the first one of this type scheduled this year against Johnson & Johnson and the first since a report by Reuters which showed that the company knew about positive asbestos tests on its talcum powder sourced by Imerys USA. That report looked at thousands of pages of internal Johnson & Johnson company files that showed both company tests and those conducted by outside labs confirmed the presence of potentially deadly levels of asbestos in its talc supply.

A recent report by Reuters claims that pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson knew for decades about the risk of asbestos contaminating its talc-based products, but did nothing to warn consumers about the dangers of exposure to the deadly carcinogen. Those claims come after the news outlet examined thousands of pages of internal company documents going back to the 1970s through the early 2000s that show Johnson & Johnson withheld information about asbestos from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

According to the article, Johnson & Johnson’s first recorded knowledge of potential asbestos contamination in its talc comes from 1957 and 1958 reports by a consulting lab describing contaminants in its products from the supplier. Those contaminants were described by the consulting lab as fibrous and acicular tremolite, one of the six-naturally occuring forms of asbestos.

Over the next several decades, other reports by Johnson & Johnson’s own scientists, outside consulting labs, and suppliers would show similar findings, including one identifying contaminants in the talc as “fiberform” and “rods.” Despite these obvious red flags, Johnson & Johnson chose not to put any warning labels on its talc-based products and allowed its potentially deadly items to remain on the market.

The U.S. Supreme Court will soon take up arguments in an asbestos cancer lawsuit that could set an important precedent not only for other mesothelioma lawsuit plaintiffs but other innocent people harmed by the negligence of companies that failed to prevent foreseeable injuries. The case was brought by two surviving relatives of a man who developed mesothelioma while working aboard Navy ships, coming in contact with industrial gaskets made with deadly asbestos fibers as part of his job duties.

According to the mesothelioma cancer lawsuit, entitled Air and Liquid Systems Corp. v. Devries, the defendants in the case manufactured equipment for Navy ships that did not contain asbestos themselves, but required replaceable parts manufactured by third parties that used asbestos in the construction. The plaintiffs have asked the court to hold Air and Liquid Systems liable for the victim’s passing because they claim the company knew that its products would need integrated parts manufactured with asbestos gaskets and seals by third parties.

Specifically, the plaintiffs asked the justices hearing the case to apply the “foreseeability” standard of negligence commonly used in maritime injury cases which holds that Air and Liquid Systems could reasonably foresee that aftermarket parts containing deadly chemicals could cause harm. On the other hand, the defense has asked the judges to apply a more simplified standard in tort law, holding that the duty of the party to warn rests with that party that is in the best position to control or avoid the harm, in this case, the gasket maker.

A New Jersey state court recently handed down an important decision in an asbestos cancer lawsuit that holds manufacturers can still be responsible for a person’s mesothelioma diagnosis if that person came in contact with asbestos in aftermarket replacement parts, even if the manufacturer did not make or distribute the items. The ruling overturns a lower court decision in favor of the defendants, which consisted of several asbestos manufacturers attempting to skirt their legal responsibility to warn the public about the dangers their products could pose.

According to the asbestos cancer lawsuit, filed in Middlesex County Superior Court, the plaintiff developed a serious form of cancer, mesothelioma, from years of coming in contact with asbestos-contaminated parts as a commercial plumber and auto repair mechanic. Specifically, the plaintiff worked as a boiler technician from the 1950s until the early 1990s and handled valves, steam traps, and brake drums manufactured by Armstrong International Inc., Burnham LLC, Carrier Corp., Cleaver-Brooks Inc., Crown Boiler Co., Ford Motor Co., Johnson Controls Inc., NIBCO Inc., and Oakfabco Inc.

While the parts the plaintiff came in contact with were not manufactured by the named defendants, his lawsuit charged that because the companies knew their products would need routine maintenance and repair with aftermarket parts made with asbestos, that these entities owed a duty to warn. In their decision, the Appellate Judges wrote “We conclude that a duty to warn exists when the manufacturer’s product contains asbestos components, which are integral to the function of the product, and the manufacturer is aware that routine periodic maintenance of the product will require the replacement of the components with other asbestos-containing products.”

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