TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A Florida appeals panel on April 6 found that blunt wraps used to wrap homemade cigars are not subject to taxation because they are not legally considered "loose tobacco" under Florida law, reversing an assessment against a company that sold blunts in the state between 2009 and 2011 (Brandy's Products Inc. v. Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, No. 1D15-3101, Fla. App. 1st Dist.; 2016 Fla. App. LEXIS 5244).
WASHINGTON D.C. - A panel of the District of Columbia U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on April 5 found that a case brought by a man seeking a permanent injunction from criminal or civil penalties under a federal anti-trafficking law for the third time is moot because the U.S. Justice Department has said it will not charge him for his past conduct (Robert Gordon v. Loretta E. Lynch, In Her Official Capacity as Attorney General of The United States, et al. No 15-5113. D.C. Cir. ;2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 6175).
DETROIT - The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which are among the plaintiffs who sued state and local officials over the lead contamination in the drinking water in Flint, Mich., on March 31 filed joint briefs in Michigan federal court opposing the motion to dismiss filed by the state treasurer and members of the Flint Receivership Transition Advisory Board (FRTAB), contending that the defendants are subject to injunctive relief to correct continuing violations of federal law (Concerned Pastors for Social Action, et al. v. Nick A. Khouri, et al., No. 16-10277, E.D. Mich.).
LANSING, Mich. - The Flint Water Advisory Task Force (FWATF) commissioned by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder issued a report on March 21, which concluded that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) "bears primary responsibility for the water contamination in Flint." The task force also determined that "the framework" for the specific events that resulted in the water crisis was "a litany of questionable decisions and failures," conducted within the framework of the state's Emergency Manager Law.
LAKE CHARLES, La. - A federal judge in Louisiana on March 18 denied Citgo Petroleum Corp.'s motion to alter a judgment requiring the company to pay an $81 million civil penalty under the Clean Water Act (CWA) for being grossly negligent in the events leading up to a 2006 oil spill at its Lake Charles facility, holding that the judge who entered the order did not commit any manifest errors of law (United States of America v. Citgo Petroleum Corp., No. 08-893, W.D. La.).
MADISON, Wis. - Even if a boilermaker foresaw the use of asbestos-containing insulation, under Wisconsin law it cannot be held liable under strict liability and negligence claim arising from third-party insulation, a federal judge in Wisconsin held March 10 (Jane Moss, et al. v. Trane U.S. Inc., No. 13-42, W.D. Wis.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 30706).
DETROIT - A purported class of Flint, Mich., residents on March 7 filed a lawsuit in Michigan federal court against the governor, the state, state officials and city employees, seeking monetary damages and injunctive relief for alleged violations of federal laws pertaining to safe drinking water connected to the lead water crisis in Flint (Myia McMillian, et al. v. Gov. Richard Dale Snyder, et al., No. 16-10796, E.D. Mich.).
PHILADELPHIA - Courts at every stop found jurisdiction over plaintiffs' asbestos actions lacking, and the law-of-the-case doctrine supports applying that conclusion now, ship owners embroiled in three long-running cases told the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on March 1 (Lionel C. Wilson, Joseph F. Braun, and Thomas Guiden v. Matson Navigation Co. Inc., American President Lines Ltd., Nos. 15-1387, 15-1388, 15-1389, 3rd Cir.).
HOUSTON - Plaintiffs' motion to enjoin a judge from enforcing legislatively enacted medical requirements appears to ask a judge to enjoin himself and thus seeks the wrong type of relief, a Texas appeals court panel held in affirming denial of the motion Feb. 25 (In re: Texas State Silica Products Liability Litigation, No. 01-15-00251-CV, Texas App., 1st Dist.; 2016 Tex. App. LEXIS 1965).
SAN FRANCISCO - A judge improperly applied case law from a products liability case in a premises liability case and then compounded the error by denying a motion to amend the complaint, plaintiffs told the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Feb. 18 (Titus May, etc., et al. v. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., etc., et al., No. 15-56219, 9th Cir.).
TRENTON, N.J. - The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), which is a defendant in a lead contamination lawsuit brought by two environmental groups, on Feb. 22 filed a brief in a New Jersey federal court arguing that the claim should be dismissed because it is barred by federal law (Raritan Baykeeper Inc., et al. v. NL Industries Inc., et al., No. 09-4117, D. N.J.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A law firm's study of asbestos personal injury claim evidence in the Chapter 11 case of Garlock Sealing Technologies LLC "shows widespread inconsistencies in the information single asbestos plaintiffs provide to the different" asbestos bankruptcy trusts, according to a Feb. 19 news release by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform (ILR).
COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Ohio Supreme Court on Feb. 18 affirmed a lower court decision remanding a case involving a law firm's access to a county health agency's lead-poisoning records, ruling that the initial records request needs to be reviewed to determine what information, if any, can be released after all protected health information is redacted (Cuyahoga County Board of Health v. Lipson O'Shea Legal Group, No. 2014-0223, Ohio Sup.; 2016 Ohio LEXIS 423).
ATLANTA - Less than two weeks after announcing that it would revisit its April holding that strict liability and negligence claims asserted in Engle progeny suits are preempted by federal law, an en banc 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Feb. 2 vacated its Jan. 21 rehearing order in light of a recusal by Chief Circuit Judge Ed Carnes (Earl E. Graham, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Faye Dale Graham v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 13-14590, 11th Cir.).
DETROIT - The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups on Jan. 27 filed a lawsuit in Michigan federal court, alleging that state and local officials failed to comply with the federal law that requires cities to deliver safe drinking water to the public and showed "complete disregard" for the residents of Flint, Mich., in letting the lead water crisis in that city to develop (Concerned Pastors for Social Action, et al. v. Nick A. Khouri, et al., No. 16-10277, E.D. Mich.).
FLINT, Mich. - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced Jan. 15 that his office is investigating the water crisis in Flint, Mich., to see if state laws were violated in connection with the lead contamination that has forced the governor to declare a state of emergency.
THE HAGUE, The Netherlands - The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) on Dec. 17 issued an award on jurisdiction, declining jurisdiction over arbitration brought by Philip Morris Asia Limited (Hong Kong) against the Commonwealth of Australia in relation to its tobacco packaging laws (Philip Morris Asia Limited [Hong Kong] v. The Commonwealth of Australia, No. 2012-12, PCA).
LOS ANGELES - A federal judge in California on Dec. 16 ruled that a plaintiff land buyer who has not closed escrow on the purchase of a property that is contaminated as a result of dry cleaning operations on an adjacent property can pursue state law claims and a claim under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), finding that the plaintiff has standing under Article III of the U.S. Constitution (Jim 72 Properties LLC v. Montgomery Cleaners, d/b/a Montgomery Cleaners & Pressers, et al., No. 15-cv-7543-ODW, C.D. Calif.; 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 168374).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and environmental groups that had sued the agency in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleging violations of federal law that had the potential to contaminate groundwater on Dec. 15 reached an agreement to dismiss the case without prejudice. The plaintiffs had argued that the EPA wrongly allowed hydraulic fracturing companies to remain exempt from listing the chemicals they use in fracking on the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) (Environmental Integrity Project, et al. v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 15-17, D. D.C.).
NEW YORK - A New York jury on Nov. 30 found former New York politician Sheldon Silver guilty of all charges, including claims that he received millions of dollars in referral fees from Weitz & Luxenberg after directing research funds to a doctor so he would steer patients to the asbestos powerhouse law firm (United States of America v. Sheldon Silver, No. 15-93, S.D. N.Y.).
TRENTON, N.J. - The Locomotive Inspection Act (LIA) focuses on the equipment and preempts state law asbestos claims regardless of the operator, a New Jersey appellate court held in affirming summary judgment for five companies Nov. 19 (Estate of Sandra Brust and Philip Brust, et al. v. ACF Industries LLC, f/k/a American Care & Foundry Co., et al., No. A-3431-13T4, N.J. Super., App. Div.).
PHILADELPHIA - A manufacturer can be held liable under maritime law for asbestos-containing replacement parts where it designed its compressors with those parts in mind, a couple told the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Nov. 16 (In re: Asbestos Products Liability Litigation, McAfee v. Various defendants, No. MDL 875, 13-6856, E.D. Pa.).
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Allegations of legal malpractice by the daughter of a smoker who failed to join the class of plaintiffs in Engle v. Liggett Grp. Inc. (945 So. 2d 1246 [Fla. 2006]) should be dismissed as untimely pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a law firm and several of its attorneys argued Nov. 12 in a Florida federal court (Shirley Spooner v. Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP et al., No. 15-1330, M.D. Fla.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - On Nov. 10, a group of tobacco companies moved for recusal of the District of Columbia federal judge assigned to their lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug and Administration over disputed marketing regulations, asserting that the judge's former tenure as partner in a law firm that provided counsel in an FDA-related campaign made recusal necessary (Philip Morris USA Inc., et al. v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, No. 1:15-cv-01590, D. D.C.).
LOS ANGELES - Monsanto Co., which was sued by a man who contends that he developed cancer as a result of exposure to a toxic chemical that is an active ingredient in a line of herbicides the company manufactured, on Nov. 9 filed a brief in California federal court contending that the case should be dismissed because the claims are preempted by federal law (Enrique Rubio v. Monsanto Company, No. 15-7426, C.D. Calif.).