WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 16 declined to address former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's claim that a circuit court split exists over how to handle commingled funds in money-laundering cases and whether directing individuals to a law firm constitutes normal attorney conduct or is something more untoward (United States of America v. Sheldon Silver, No. 17-562, U.S. Sup.).
DALLAS - The Texas attorney general overstates the case in favor of unsealing deposition testimony from a law firm's principal and ignores that there is no evidence the record constitutes a court document, appellees told the state's appeals court on Jan. 3 (Christine Cole Biederman v. Beverly Jean Brown, et al., No. 01-07-00263-CV, Texas App., 1st Dist.).
PHILADELPHIA - Pennsylvania law all but eradicating joint and several liability applies to strict liability asbestos cases, a state appellate court held in remanding for a new trial on the issue of liability Dec. 28 (William Roverano, et al. v. John Crane Inc. et al., Nos. 2837 EDA 2016, 2847 EDA 2016, Pa. Super.).
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Only by requiring those who use to tobacco products to submit medical reports indicating whether they qualify as "smokers" can Ohio courts give the General Assembly's choice of words meaning, a company told the Ohio Supreme Court on Dec. 22 (Bobby Turner, et al. v. Union Carbide Corp., et al., No. 17-0004, Ohio Sup.).
OAKLAND, Calif. - A judge misconstrued portions of testimony in concluding that a deposition contradicted a previous declaration, and the apparent belief that the testimony was lacking because the witness did not testify to directly witnessing asbestos exposures is contrary to the law, a California appeals court held Dec. 22 (Keith Turley and Joy Ann Turley v. Familian Corp., No. A149752, Calif. App., 1st Dist.).
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Whether a 2014 law providing enhanced workers' compensation benefits for mesothelioma victims retroactively upsets vested interests is a constitutional question for the state's top court, the Missouri Court of Appeals held Dec. 19 (Accident Fund Insurance Co., et al. v. Robert Casey, et al., Nos. WD80470, WD80481, WD80525, Mo. App., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 207148).
DALLAS - Texas law governing sealed court records permit any one, at any time, to challenge whether such documents should remain out of the public's eye, the state's attorney general told an appeals court Dec. 15 in urging it to remand a case for a determination of the merits of a case challenging the sealing of a lawyer's deposition in an asbestos case (Christine Cole Biederman v. Beverly Jean Brown, et al., No. 01-07-00263-CV, Texas App., 1st Dist.).
SAN FRANCISCO - A collection of environmental advocacy groups on Dec. 19 filed a lawsuit in California federal court against Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and two federal agencies contending that they are violating federal law with regard to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) final decision to amend the compliance deadlines for what is known as the methane waste prevention rule (Sierra Club, et al. v. Ryan Zinke, et al., No. 17-7187, N.D. Calif.).
WILMINGTON, Del. - Imposing liability for take-home asbestos exposures on manufacturers would make no sense given Delaware's precedent and would open those defendants up to a flood of potentially limitless liability and litigation, a group of amicus parties told the Delaware Supreme Court on Dec. 15 (Elizabeth Ramsey, et al. v. Georgia Southern University Advanced Development Center, et al., No. 305, 2017, Del. Sup.).
DALLAS - A judge stepped outside the bounds of a motion challenging jurisdiction and resolved merit questions, a woman told a Texas appeals court on Dec. 8 in asking it to reinstate her case seeking to obtain a copy of a deposition she claims will show an asbestos law firm coaching witnesses (Christine Cole Biederman v. Beverly Jean Brown, et al., No. 01-07-00263-CV, Texas App., 1st Dist.).
RICHMOND, Va. - The Sierra Club and a Virginia power company filed competing briefs on Dec. 7 in the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, arguing that a lower court erred in its ruling on the environmental group's groundwater contamination claim. The Sierra Club contends that the company should pay penalties and is liable for violations of federal law, while the company says it is not liable for any pollution (Sierra Club v. Virginia Electric & Power Company f/k/a Dominion Virginia Power, No. 17-1895, 4th Cir.).
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Requiring every asbestos lung cancer plaintiff who ever smoked tobacco to provide a medical expert opinion that the person doesn't qualify as a "smoker" would produce absurd results, burden nonsmokers and is at odds with a decade of precedent and the law's intent, a man told the Ohio Supreme Court Dec. 6 (Bobby Turner, et al. v. Union Carbide Corp., et al., No. 17-0004, Ohio Sup.).
WILMINGTON, Del. - A court erred "in the most fundamental sense" in applying the wrong standard and relieving manufacturers of liability for take-home asbestos exposures simply because they were more distant from the exposed individual than the premises owner, amici curiae tell Delaware's top court in a Nov. 20 brief (Elizabeth Ramsey, et al. v. Georgia Southern University Advanced Development Center, et al., No. 305, 2017, Del. Sup.).
NEW YORK - The New York Department of Investigation (DOI) on Nov. 15 issued a report indicating that the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) failed to conduct mandatory safety inspections for lead paint during a four-year period beginning in 2013 but falsified reports to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development stating that the NYCHA was in compliance with federal laws pertaining to those inspections.
COLUMBUS, Ohio - The law clearly requires those bringing asbestos-related lung cancer claims to submit a medical expert's opinion regarding whether the plaintiff qualifies as a smoker of tobacco products, language intended to prioritize asbestos lung cancer claims and insulate untrained judges from having to translate medical records, a company told the Ohio Supreme Court on Nov. 7 (Bobby Turner, et al. v. Union Carbide Corp., et al., No. 17-0004, Ohio Sup.).
DALLAS - A court lacks jurisdiction over 20-year-old deposition testimony into the creation of a memo some believe shows lawyers coaching asbestos witnesses because the testimony is not a court document, plaintiffs and their law firm told a Texas appeals court on Nov. 3 (Christine Cole Biederman v. Beverly Jean Brown, et al., No. 01-07-00263-CV, Texas App., 1st Dist.).
WILMINGTON, Del. - A man employed by third parties at a chemical plant and whose work was controlled by those parties has no negligence claim against the premises owner, a Delaware judge held Oct. 26 (Jeffrey A. Warner v. Covestro LLC, et al., No. N15C-02-060 ASB, Del. Super., New Castle Co.).
RICHMOND, Va. - A judge's decision to sever and remand state law asbestos claims while retaining jurisdiction over third-party claims is not a final decision subject to appellate review, the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held Oct. 24 (Wayne Oliver v. Campbell-McCormick Inc., et al. v. Clifford Oliver, June Stearns v. The Walter Campbell Co. Inc., No. 16-1895, 4th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 21220).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Two companies on Oct. 20 defended a ruling rejecting an $8 million judgment, telling the Florida Supreme Court that the state's Legislature is free to adopt the Daubert standard and that expert testimony that every exposure to asbestos leads to mesothelioma fails regardless of which standard the court applies (Richard DeLisle v. Crane Co., et al., No. SC16-2182, Fla. Sup.).
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A panel of judges in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida on Oct. 18 ordered two law firms pay $9.1 million in sanctions for filing 1,250 frivolous Engle progeny complaints (In Re: Engle Cases, No. 3:09-cv-10000, M.D. Fla., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 172678).
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A California court correctly imposed a $765,000 civil penalty against a man for illegal cigarette sales at two smoke shops on Indian land because neither federal law nor tribal sovereignty preempts the state's regulation and enforcement of its laws regarding cigarette sales, a state appeals court held Oct. 17 (The People ex rel. Xavier Becerra, as Attorney General, etc., v. Darren Paul Rose, No. C080546, Calif. App., 3rd Dist., 2017 Cal. App. LEXIS 900).
BATON ROUGE, La. - Two companies cannot even agree on what their "plain meaning" interpretations of federal law would require, so their interpretations should be rejected in favor of a clear rule that deposition testimony triggers the period for removing an asbestos case, an asbestos plaintiff told the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Oct. 11 (Curtis D. Morgan v. Dow Chemical Co., et al., No. 17-30523, 5th Cir.).
OKLAHOMA CITY - A hydraulic fracturing company on Oct. 9 filed a brief in an Oklahoma federal court arguing that the company that made a lithium battery pack that exploded on a fracking rig and injured a worker has a direct duty under Oklahoma law to indemnify the fracking operator because the explosion was caused by an allegedly defective design (Jacob McGehee, et al. v. Southwest Electronic Energy Corporation, et al. and Southwest Electronic Energy Corporation v. Engineered Power LP, et al., No. 15-145, W.D. Okla.).
ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Merely knowing of the presence of asbestos and its hazards is not enough to escape the state's workers' compensation exclusivity provision, a federal judge in North Carolina held Sept. 29 (Howard Milton Moore Jr., et al. v. Alcatel-Lucent USA Inc., et al., No. 16-157, W.D. N.C., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 162517).
PHILADELPHIA - The bare-metal defense does not bar asbestos negligence actions under maritime law's "bedrock principle" of protecting sailors, a Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel held Oct. 3 (In re: Asbestos Products Liability Litigation [No. VI], Roberta G. DeVries, et al. v. Buffalo Pumps Inc., et al., No. 16-2602, Shirley McAfee, et al. v. Ingersoll-Rand & Co., No. 16-2669, 3rd Cir.).