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Articles Posted in Mesothelioma Court Rulings & Legislation

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.

A New York Supreme Court judge recently handed down a significant ruling in an asbestos cancer lawsuit in favor of a man who claims his former employer caused his terminal cancer by using materials contaminated with deadly carcinogens. The case involved a now deceased victim who claimed that during his time as a roofer, he frequently used products manufactured with asbestos by CertainTeed Corporation and that this was the source of his exposure to the carcinogen which caused his ultimately fatal condition.

CertainTeed Corporation attempted to avoid liability for manufacturing the asbestos-contaminated roofing and construction materials by filing a motion for summary judgement to have the case thrown out of court. The company claimed that they had ceased manufacturing products with asbestos during the victim’s stated dates of employment in which he claimed to have used the asbestos-containing materials.

However, the New York City Supreme Court judge hearing the case noted that CertainTeed could not meet the legal standard to have the case dismissed on such grounds at it could not definitively prove that the plaintiff had not come in contact with asbestos-containing materials that had already been manufactured. In fact, the plaintiff had testified that during projects which lasted significant amounts of time, he used construction materials manufactured by CertainTeed years prior, including over 100 cans of roofing coating known to contain asbestos.

In the closing days of Maryland’s legislative session, lawmakers are seriously considering a proposal that would move tens of thousands of pending asbestos cancer lawsuits from state courts and put them into arbitration to clear the backlog. The move is supported by one of the more well-known asbestos cancer lawyers in the state, who has an estimated two-thirds of all such cases currently in litigation in one single court, as well as the Maryland state senate.

According to a report by the Baltimore Sun, the bill sponsored by Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher, a Montgomery County Democrat sailed through the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on a 10-1 vote two days after its hearing. That same bills then passed the full Maryland state senate by a unanimous vote of 44-0 and will need to pass the state house of representatives before the year’s session expires in just a few days.

There are 30,000 asbestos cancer lawsuits pending in just Baltimore County Circuit Court alone, many of them brought by victims and family members of people who once worked in Sparrows Point steel mill, Baltimore’s shipyards, and other construction and manufacturing businesses. Under the proposal, plaintiffs with asbestos-related cancer would be able to have a new office mediate their cases first and still have the option to go to trial if neither side is satisfied.

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.

A collection of environmental groups recently filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over claims the agency’s reporting practices essentially create loopholes that allow companies to avoid acknowledging asbestos may be present in their products. The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization and four other groups filed their claim in U.S. District Court for the District of San Francisco, challenging the agency’s decision to allow exemptions to asbestos reporting rules.

In addition to challenging asbestos reporting rules, the plaintiffs also criticized the EPA’s denial of a petition to impose stricter reporting requirements on companies that handle asbestos, essentially leaving the public in the dark about potential dangers of exposure. Despite federal regulators designating asbestos as a known carcinogen with no safe level exposure since the 1970s, there is still no outright ban on asbestos due to an Appeals Court ruling in the early 1990s.

In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs claim the lack of reliable data makes it especially difficult for the EPA to determine where asbestos is manufactured, processed, or imported in the United States which flies in the face of the agency’s duty to perform risk assessments for the mineral. In June 2017, the EPA released a scoping document identifying products that may contain asbestos but that document provides little if any information on the level of asbestos present, quantities imported, or nation of origin, according to the lawsuit.

A State of New York Appeals Court recently handed down an important ruling in an asbestos cancer lawsuit that will allow the injured plaintiff to proceed with his claim and possibly recover compensation for the injuries he suffered as a result of the defendant’s negligence. In its split decision, the appeals court allowed a lawsuit by a former merchant marine can not be thrown out based on a settlement he agreed to in the 1990s that was intended to exempt the employer from all future claims from the employee.

The lawsuit was originally brought against Chevron in in 2014 by a former employee after he developed mesothelioma, which the complaint alleged was induced by the victim’s exposure to asbestos while he served as a seaman in the Merchant Marine for nearly four decades. The plaintiff subsequently passed away from complications with the disease in 2015 but the victim’s wife took over as the plaintiff in the case.

Chevron had moved to resolve the case based on a release the victim signed in 1997 when he and approximately 100 other former workers were involved in another lawsuit against Texaco, which later merged with Chevron. The victim claimed he was exposed to asbestos fibers when he worked aboard Texaco ships during his career with the company and while he had not yet been diagnosed with mesothelioma, the settlement sought to release the company from any future liability.

In the midst of thousands of lawsuits claiming plaintiffs developed ovarian cancer, mesothelioma, and other serious health conditions, federal regulators and Congress have issued subpoenas to pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson to seek answers over whether or not the company’s talc-based products pose a risk to the public. Executives for Johnson & Johnson recently revealed the company has received subpoenas from the Securities and Exchange Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, and a member of the U.S. Senate seeking information about the health risks of talcum powder products.

Revelations came in a Form 10-k securities filing in which Johnson & Johnson admitted to receiving the records requests and claimed to be fully cooperating with federal investigators looking into the dangers of the company’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products. Johnson & Johnson was rocked at the end of 2018 by Reuters reporting that analyzed thousands of pages of internal company documents that appeared to show executives with the corporation knew for decades about positive tests for carcinogens in its talcum powder products.

Johnson & Johnson currently faces approximately 13,000 talcum powder cancer lawsuits across the country from women and men who claim they developed deadly forms of cancer from years of exposure to carcinogens in the products. In 2019, Johnson & Johnson and its talc supplier, Imerys Talc USA, face dozens of trials in several states which could open the company to potentially billions in liability if juries continue to hand down substantial plaintiffs verdicts as they had in 2018.

An Arkansas federal jury recently handed down a substantial plaintiff’s verdict in an asbestos mesothelioma lawsuit filed by the family of a man who worked at a brake shop in Little Rock during the 1970s. The lawsuit named Honeywell International Inc., which years ago bought Allied Signal, a company that had acquired Bendix, which was one of the principal manufacturers of brake-shoe linings in the country.

According to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, the plaintiff developed mesothelioma in late 2017 from years of exposure to asbestos while working as an auto mechanic installing brake shoes. Court records show that the plaintiffs claimed the victim worked at Stuart’s Brake Shop in Little Rock and North Little Rock from 1971 until 1983, frequently performing up to one dozen brake jobs a day.

The plaintiff passed away a short time after his mesothelioma diagnosis, and his family has continued with the lawsuit on behalf of his estate along with the help of their mesothelioma lawyers. In ruling on behalf of the plaintiff, the jurors awarded the victim’s estate $216,000 for loss of life, $5 million for his pain and suffering and $341,979 for his medical expenses. The bulk of the recovery came from an additional $1 million the jury awarded to each of the victim’s children and additional $10 million in punitive damages.

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.

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