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Articles Posted in Mesothelioma Court Rulings & Legislation

A federal judge in San Francisco recently allowed a lawsuit to continue against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alleging the agency fails to properly track how much deadly asbestos is imported, manufactured, and otherwise used in products in the United States. Several advocacy groups filed the asbestos lawsuit against the EPA in February 2019, challenging the agencies decision to allow certain exemptions to reporting rules for asbestos products, and the agency’s decision to deny a petition to impose stricter reporting requirements on companies dealing in asbestos.

“EPA has greatly overstated its knowledge of asbestos use and exposure in the United States,” the advocacy groups, now plaintiffs, wrote in a letter to the EPA back in January 2019 in which they urged the agency to reconsider its decision. “This decision gives us the green light to press ahead with our suit to hold EPA accountable for refusing to require simple and straightforward reporting by the asbestos industry,” said Linda Reinstein, president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, one of the plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit against the EPA.

Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the American Public Health Association, the Center for Environmental Health, the Environmental Working Group, the Environmental Health Strategy Center, and Safer Chemicals Healthy Families. A spokesperson for the Environmental Working Group released a statement saying “EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s efforts to keep the public in the dark about where and how asbestos is being used in this country is antithetical to what the American people should expect from the head of the EPA.”

A New Jersey Superior Court judge recently denied a motion by the defendant in a talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuit which sought to set aide a multimillion dollar verdict handed down by a state jury to a group of plaintiffs who claimed they developed serious forms of cancer due to asbestos fibers in talc-based products produced by the defendant. That lawsuit claimed pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson knowingly sold asbestos-contaminated talcum powder products for years, without any warnings to consumers about the known risks of asbestos exposure.

In September 2019, a Middlesex County, New Jersey jury handed down a $37.3 million verdict to four plaintiffs who claimed they developed mesothelioma cancer as a result of using talc-based products, such as Baby Powder and Shower to Shower, produced by Johnson & Johnson. That trial took place in the city of Brunswick, New Jersey, where Johnson & Johnson’s corporate headquarters is located. The company faces thousands of other such lawsuits in state and federal courts across the country.

Johnson & Johnson’s post-trial motion, which the judge recently denied, had asked the judge to set aside the trial court’s verdict on a multitude of legal grounds. However, that motion was denied by the judge on the grounds that the proceedings in the case had not yet concluded, as the jury’s $37.3 million award only included damages for lost wages, medical bills, other monetary damages, and pain and suffering. The case is set to enter a new phase relatively soon, as the jury will decide what, if any, punitive damages Johnson & Johnson will be required to pay the victims.

With the signature of Governor Gavin Newsom, California recently passed a law aimed at protecting mesothelioma cancer victims during the fact-gathering stage of an asbestos cancer lawsuit. The bill, SB 645, would limit the number of hours defendants would be able to question plaintiffs under oath in cases where plaintiffs can demonstrate to the courts that they have less than six months to live.

SB 645 places a seven-hour limitation on defendants’ deposition examination (where attorneys question witnesses under oath) in cases in which a licensed physician provides the court with a written declaration stating that the plaintiff has mesothelioma and there is substantial doubt whether he or she will live longer than six months. In cases in which there are more than 10 defendants named in the lawsuit, defendants may request an additional three hours of deposition testimony, and an additional seven hours of testimony if more than 20 defendants are involved in the lawsuit.

The law allows the courts to grant those time extensions in cases in which such an extension is in the interest of fairness, and the health of the plaintiff would not be endangered by the additional testimony time. The law’s passage with the governor’s signature is welcome news for mesothelioma cancer victims who are often subjected to hours and hours of intense questioning by defense attorneys, all while the plaintiff’s health is in decline while batting the serious form of cancer.

A New Jersey state jury recently handed down a $2.38 million plaintiff’s verdict in an asbestos cancer lawsuit brought by a man who claimed he developed mesothelioma cancer from years of exposure to asbestos shipped to his workplace by the defendant. The mesothelioma cancer lawsuit named Union Carbide as the defendant, and was eventually carried on by the victim’s widow after he succumbed to the disease which he claimed was caused by the defendant’s negligence.

The road to justice was a long one for the victim and his widow, originally filing the mesothelioma cancer lawsuit in June 2011. Years later in 2015, the judge hearing the case granted summary judgement to Union Carbide after the company argued that the plaintiff failed to acquire enough evidence showing the victim worked directly with asbestos-contaminated products produced by the defendant.

Asbestos is directly linked with developing a rare and deadly form of cancer known as mesothelioma. The disease commonly affects the thin lining of tissue surrounding vital organs such as the heart, lungs, and abdomen. There is currently no cure for mesothelioma and the disease often takes decades to show symptoms, leaving patients with diminished treatment options by the time a diagnosis is made.

A New York City judge recently handed down an important ruling in a mesothelioma cancer lawsuit brought by a former electrician who claims the defendant, a boiler manufacturer, caused his mesothelioma by exposing him to deadly asbestos fibers. The lawsuit names Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based Burnham LLC as the defendant, alleging the company knowingly produced and shipped products that required after-market parts made with asbestos, specifically asbestos-cement used as an insulation for the equipment.

The plaintiff, now unfortunately deceased, claimed in his lawsuit that during his time as an electrician with his employer, Vanderlin Electrical Contractors, he frequently worked with boilers manufactured by Burnham LLC. The victim claimed that the units delivered by the defendant to his job site at Wesleyan College without the required insulation “jacket” and that insulation workers also on site had to mix asbestos cement to create the insulation needed to complete installation.

Furthermore, the plaintiff, in his sworn deposition testimony before his passing, recalled he was required to remove the very same asbestos insulation on the boilers in order to access valves on the boilers, and would breathe in the dust created during both the application and removal of the insulation. As a result of years of exposure to asbestos fibers in the course of working on boilers produced by Burnham LLC, the plaintiff claimed he developed mesothelioma cancer, a rare and deadly form of cancer directly linked to asbestos exposure.

A St. Louis state jury recently handed down a substantial $8.4 million plaintiff’s verdict on behalf of a former auto mechanic who claimed his mesothelioma cancer diagnosis was due to negligence on the part of Ford Motor Company. The jury’s award included $5,725,000 in actual damages and $2 million in punitive damages, as well as an additional $708,000 in actual damages for the victim’s wife, finding she “did sustain damage as a direct result of injury to her husband.”

According to the asbestos cancer lawsuit, filed in St. Louis City Circuit Court, the plaintiff was allegedly exposed to asbestos fibers by working with brakes, gaskets, clutches, and OEM replacement parts developed and sold by Ford Motor Company. As a result of years of exposure to asbestos, the plaintiff developed mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of cancer which usually affects the lungs but can spread to other areas of the body such as the heart and abdomen.

The plaintiff’s mesothelioma cancer lawsuit claims that despite Ford’s knowledge about the risks the asbestos in its auto parts could pose to innocent people, the automaker chose not to provide any warning about the dangers. The plaintiff worked as a mechanic at Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln automobile dealerships from the 1960s until the 1980s, much of that during a period before the federal government had addressed the dangers of asbestos.

Many people assume that asbestos has been banned from commercial, industrial, and military use, but the truth is that the substance, often used as an insulation, is merely so heavily regulated that it is “effectively” banned. Federal regulations put in place since the 1970s have essentially outlawed use of asbestos by making it extremely difficult to obtain approval from the federal government for approval of new uses of the substance.

However, that does not mean innocent people are still not suffering harm from asbestos exposure. Only a few dozen countries have complete bans on asbestos and several others are beginning to increase their exports of the mineral to emerging markets worldwide. Thanks to a new rule that went into effect in June, the U.S. could soon allow new uses of asbestos to be studied and possibly grow the market here.

That rule came to an amendment of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) which prohibits manufacturing, processing, and distribution of commercial asbestos as well as asbestos-containing mixtures and articles used for other purposes. While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains the changes to the TSCA only allow the agency to monitor the development, use, and disposal of dangerous substances, including asbestos, critics worry it would open the door to revive asbestos usage.

A Florida state appeals court recently denied a motion by the defendant in an asbestos cancer lawsuit to bar testimony from one of its company executives who plaintiffs say would have inside knowledge about the defendant’s history and interactions with asbestos-containing products, as well as its adherence to occupational health and safety laws. The mesothelioma cancer lawsuit names utility company Florida Power & Light Co. as the defendant and accused the business of knowingly exposing the plaintiff to dangerous carcinogens which caused his cancer diagnosis and other health problems.

According to the mesothelioma cancer lawsuit, originally filed in 2017 in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court, the plaintiff developed mesothelioma from decades of asbestos exposure over the course of his employment at Florida Power & Light Co. The plaintiff asserts that the company’s negligence is responsible for his deadly cancer diagnosis by allowing him to work with and around asbestos at power plants operated by Florida Power & Light without any warning about the dangers posed by the carcinogenic material.

In its defense of the lawsuit, Florida Power & Light Co. sought a court’s injunction to block the plaintiff from deposing corporate representatives who would testify about the victim’s work conditions at the time of his employment. According to court documents, “FPL moved for protective orders from each notice and in support, submitted an affidavit prepared by its senior attorney, stating that compliance and production would require FPL to expend significant time, be voluminous and would cost millions of dollars.”

A New Jersey federal judge held key evidentiary hearings in coordinated pretrial proceedings covering thousands of asbestos talcum powder lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson through the process of multidistrict litigation (MDL). Lawsuits involved in MDL allow both sides to conduct common discovery in cases to apply rules at trial which will apply at trial for all the individual cases, a procedure which may benefit both plaintiffs and defendants depending on the judge’s rulings.

Of particular importance to the pretrial MDL hearings in the asbestos cancer lawsuits are the expert witnesses identified by the plaintiffs to testify at trial. Those expert witnesses include biologists, physicians and epidemiologists who have concluded there is scientific evidence that talc use can cause ovarian cancer. Back in May 2019, Johnson & Johnson asked the federal judge overseeing the MDL process to exclude the opinions of 22 expert witnesses retained by the plaintiff on the grounds these individuals “they misapply scientific principles” and “engage in unsupported leaps of logic.”

Attorneys for Johnson & Johnson have said in media interviews that an exclusion of some or all of the plaintiffs’ witnesses along with a judge’s ruling there is insufficient evidence of causation to present to any jury would wipe out the majority of the cases before they could see a courtroom. On the other hand, the plaintiffs’ lawyers have asked the judge to deny Johnson & Johnson’s request, arguing their expert witnesses are qualified and rely on sound methodologies to reach their opinions.

A federal judge recently denied a request by pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson to transfer thousands of asbestos cancer lawsuits from various state courts under one single federal court. The move comes after Johnson & Johnson’s one-time co-defendant and talc supplier, Imerys Talc USA, declared bankruptcy in the face of an estimated 14,000 other asbestos cancer lawsuits filed against the pair over allegations the two produced carcinogenic talc-based products for decades.

Johnson & Johnson had asked a Delaware federal district court judge to transfer some 2,400 talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuits to her court in the wake of co-defendant Imerys filing for federal Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Had Johnson & Johnson been granted the motion, the company would have been able to conduct common discovery on the asbestos cancer lawsuits under a unified jurisdiction, potentially giving the company more leverage to settle or otherwise resolve the claims.

“The judges in the states who are already handling these cases are better suited to hear the claims before them than is this Court, which would have to hear thousands of cases and apply different state laws to each,” the federal judge said. The judge’s ruling noted her federal court did not have the authority over the lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson due to the fact that the company’s co-defendant filed for bankruptcy in that court and that it failed to establish the lawsuits against it affect Imerys and the bankruptcy proceedings.

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