Court Denies Railway’s Request for Sanctions

For purposes of this article, the mesothelioma victim in this case will be referred to as Ms. M.D.M.

Many years have passed since asbestos fibers that originated from vermiculite mines blew around Libby, Montana. Vermiculite and asbestos form under similar conditions, and therefore, asbestos contaminated Libby’s vermiculite deposit. Decades of mining in the vermiculite mines exposed workers and residents to toxic asbestos. Asbestos is a dangerous substance that can cause aggressive and fatal diseases. One of the most aggressive and fatal illnesses asbestos causes is mesothelioma. Decades after asbestos fibers blew around Libby, Montana, the tragic toll of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses persists. Victims and their families continue to seek justice and compensation against the entities responsible for their illnesses and deaths. In an upcoming court case, the family of a mesothelioma victim who passed away avoided sanctions BNSF Railway, the defendant, was seeking. BNSF was seeking sanctions because the family had cremated their loved one’s remains before they could get additional tissue samples for testing. Below is more on this case.

Among the many ongoing cases in Libby, Montana, is Ms. M.D.M. Ms. M’s case against MNSF Railway was filed two years ago. Initially, the defendant received tissue samples from Ms. M’s lung, but BNSF asked for more samples. The defendant asked the victim’s family to preserve her organ tissues in the event of death. However, the family did not respond to this request until days before Ms. M.D.M.’s death. According to the family, they could not accept the defendant’s request because of religion. Also, the family cited privacy concerns.

BNSF informed Ms. M.D.M.’s attorneys that they would file an emergency motion for the preservation of tissue samples. However, the defendant did not submit the motion until after Ms. M.D.M.’s passing. By that time, the family had cremated her remains. BNSF requested sanctions against the family, but these requests were rejected because the company did not have good cause to warrant the tissue samples. BNSF resubmitted the same request.

The defendant submitted another request for spoliation due to Ms. M.D.M.’s family’s failure to keep her remains intact. BNSF argued they had valid grounds for obtaining the additional tissue samples. BNSF’s argument relied on the testimony of an expert pathologist asserting the necessity of the samples to confirm the mesothelioma diagnosis. However, the court rejected their request, citing failure to ask for permission to file the motion for reconsideration. Also, the court pointed out that the defendant had not presented any new facts or relevant legal principles since the initial ruling.

However, the court did grant one of BNSF’s requests. The court agreed to split the trial into two different portions. First, the question of whether BNSF was negligent in its actions would be addressed. Then, punitive damages would be considered.

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