LOS ANGELES - An environmental group on Dec. 3 filed a complaint in California federal court contending that various agencies under the auspices of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) have violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by approving permits for hydraulic fracturing (Environmental Defense Center v. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, et al., No. 14-cv-09281, C.D. Calif.).
SEATTLE - An injury arising from potential exposures both as a direct employee and as a contractor is indivisible, and the employer is immune under Washington state law, a federal judge held in rejecting plaintiffs' "dual persona" argument on Dec. 2 (Alan McMann and Donna McMann v. Air & Liquid Systems Corp., et al., No. 13-5429, W.D. Wash.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 166984).
The City of Denton, which passed a ban on hydraulic fracturing within the city limits, on Dec. 1 filed answers to two lawsuits that were filed separately challenging the constitutionality of the fracking ban (Texas Oil and Gas Association v. City of Denton, No. 14-08933-431, Texas Dist., 16th Jud. Dist., Denton Co., and Jerry Patterson v. City of Denton, No. D-1-GN-14-004628, Texas Dist., 431st Jud. Dist., Travis Co.).
PHILADELPHIA - Pennsylvania's top court on Dec. 3 rejected 19 asbestos plaintiffs' petitions for review of a ruling allowing the transfer of their cases to Northampton County from Philadelphia County (Joyce M. Stettler and Raymond J. Stettler, et al. v. Allied Signal Inc., et al., Nos. 192 EAS 2014-207 EAL 2014, Pa. Sup.).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A state senator in Florida on Dec. 2 introduced a bill that would prohibit a person from engaging in hydraulic fracturing in the state.
HARRISBURG, Pa. - An environmental watchdog and a group of residents on Dec. 1 renewed their appeal of a decision by the Pennsylvania Department of the Environment (DEP) that granted a hydraulic fracturing permit to an energy company, arguing that the DEP failed to adhere to standards and comply with the requirements of the Pennsylvania Constitution (The Delaware Riverkeeper Network, et al. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, et al. [in re: XTO Energy Inc.], No. 2014-101, Pa. EHB).
NEWARK, N.J. - A decision finding that an asbestos-tainted talc defendant and its former attorneys must face allegations that they fraudulently destroyed documents pertinent to litigation stands after the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals declined rehearing on Dec. 1 (Kimberlee Williams, et al. v. BASF Catalysts LLC, et al., No. 13-1089, 3rd Cir.).
WASHINGTON, DC. - The U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1 rejected a petition challenging the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals' finding that defendants in a Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) lawsuit can raise an "act of war" defense against claims seeking reimbursement for cleanup costs of toxic dust caused by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC) (Cedar & Washington Associates, LLC v. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, et al., 14-239, U.S. Sup.).
SEATTLE - According to its docket, Washington state's top court on Nov. 25 denied a motion for rehearing, leaving stand a ruling that an employer did not trigger the deliberate intent exception to the workers' compensation statute by ordering employees to return to an asbestos-contaminated workspace (Gary G. Walston and Donna Walston v. The Boeing Co., No. 885117, Wash. Sup.).
HOUSTON - The federal judge in Texas presiding over a contract dispute between a hydraulic fracturing company and another company that provided technology services for the operation of the fracking business on Dec. 1 issued an order setting the deadline for discovery, mediation and eventual trial, if necessary (Southwestern Energy Production Co. v. Crawford Technical Services LLC, No. H-14-1742, S.D. Texas).
PHILADELPHIA - The policy reasons behind the severance of punitive damages in the federal asbestos litigation remain, various defendants argue in Nov. 26 briefs urging the judge overseeing the litigation to continue the practice (Kenneth McAfee and Shirley McAfee v. 20th Century Glove Corporation of Texas, et al., No. 13-6856, Gerald Morris and Barbara Morris v. Honeywell International Inc., et al., No. 13-6591, E.D. Pa.).
NEW ORLEANS - The federal judge in Louisiana overseeing litigation stemming from the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and ensuing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on Nov. 26 refused to reconsider his decision affirming the interpretation of the administrator of the Medical Benefits Class Action Settlement Agreement (MSA) that the settlement does not include payouts for individuals whose condition was not diagnosed by April 16, 2012, after finding that the terms of the agreement are not ambiguous (In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig "Deepwater Horizon" in the Gulf of Mexico, April 20, 2010, MDL No. 2179, E.D. La.).
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The owner of a defunct asbestos fiber supplier and its attorney may not be pursued in hopes of fulfilling a $3 million judgment, an Illinois appellate court held Nov. 24 (James Shipley v. Stephen Hoke, Patrick Shine and Cooney & Conway and The C.P. Hall Co., Nos. 4-13-0810, 4-13-0837, Ill. App., 4th Dist.; 2014 Ill. App. LEXIS 813).
HOUSTON - An oil and gas exploration company on Nov. 25 filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas against a hydraulic fracturing company, contending that it has breached its contract by not offering the exploration company an opportunity to purchase a proportionate share of oil and gas assets the exploration company says it is due under a contract with a previous company (Energy & Exploration Partners LLC v. New Gulf Resources LLC, No. 14-03375, S.D. Texas).
SAN FRANCISCO - A property group seeking to intervene in a lawsuit against a company accused of contaminating a site must amend its claims for declaratory relief under the Carpenter-Presley-Tanner Hazardous Substance Account Act (HSAA), California's equivalent of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), because the claim is duplicative of its request for declaratory relief under the federal statute, a federal judge in California ruled Nov. 25 (California River Watch v. Fluor Corporation, No. 10-cv-05105-WHO, N.D. Calif.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 164795).
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - A group of Mississippi residents that contend that Hercules Inc. has released toxic chemicals into their groundwater on Nov. 24 filed a brief in Mississippi federal court seeking to modify a case management order (CMO) for the purpose of correcting "clear errors of law and to prevent manifest injustices" (Dorothy Abner, et al. v. Hercules Inc., et al., No. 14-63, S.D. Miss.).
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A federal judge in West Virginia on Nov. 26 approved an addendum to a consent decree that would require Alpha Natural Resources Inc. to pay $27.5 million in civil penalties for violating the Clean Water Act (CWA), after finding that the agreement was the result of five years of investigation and negotiations with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (United States of America, et al. v. Alpha Natural Resources Inc., et al., No. 14-11609, S.D. W.Va.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 165842).
OAKLAND, Calif. - A 71-year-old mesothelioma sufferer doing "reasonably well" is nonetheless entitled to trial preference based on age and resulting prejudice if he dies, a California appellate panel held Nov. 26 (Gerald Boyd, et al. v. The Superior Court of Alameda County, 3M Co., et al., No. A143511, Calif. App., 1st Dist., Div. 3; 2014 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 8565).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A federal judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims on Nov. 26 affirmed the denial of benefits for a veteran who contended that he was injured as a result of exposure to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam. The judge said the documentary evidence from the veteran's doctors was "inherently inconsistent" (Carl E. Geniac v. Robert McDonald, No. 13-2764, Vet. Clms.; 2014 U.S. App. Vet. Claims LEXIS 1982).
NEW ORLEANS - A judge improperly pierced the pleadings in determining whether two defendants were fraudulently joined in an asbestos action, despite the lack of any alleged jurisdictional fraud or any showing that plaintiffs could not recover from the defendants, plaintiffs told the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Nov. 26 (Tina Davidson, et al. v. Georgia Pacific LLC, et al., No. 14-30925, 5th Cir.).
NEW ORLEANS - Attending safety meetings and knowing about the dangers of asbestos fall short of the type of control required for a strict liability claim under pre-1996 Louisiana law, a federal judge held Nov. 21 (Michael Comardelle v. Pennsylvania General Insurance Co., et al., No. 13-6555, E.D. La.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 163205).
NEW YORK - The attorney representing a group of Ecuadorian residents who won an $18.5 billion judgment against Chevron Corp. for personal injuries caused by the company's oil operations in the Lago Agrio region of Ecuador filed a brief in the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Nov. 25, contending that Chevron's lawsuit against him should be dismissed in its entirety (Chevron Corporation v. Steven R. Donziger, et al., No. 14-826, 2nd Cir.).
ATLANTA - Crane Co. cannot be liable under Georgia law for asbestos-containing replacement parts on its valves because the state's laws implicitly accept the bare metal defense, a federal judge in Georgia held Nov. 21 (Mike Thurmon, et al. v. A.W. Chesterton Inc., et al., No. 11-1407, N.D. Ga.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 164136).
ALBANY, N.Y. - A divided New York Court of Appeals on Nov. 25 affirmed a lower court ruling that additional payments were not available on an insurance policy for injuries suffered as a result of exposure to lead-based paint because the policy limits were not increased when the policy was renewed (Jannie Nesmith v. Allstate Insurance Company, No. 187, N.Y. App.; 2014 N.Y. LEXIS 3350).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims on Nov. 25 reversed a ruling that concluded that a veteran's injuries were not caused by exposure to Agent Orange, determining that the examiner who reached that conclusion did so "without any supporting rationale" (Robert E. Kring v. Robert A. McDonald, No. 12-3235, Vet. Clms. App.; 2014 U.S. App. Vet. Claims LEXIS 1959).