BUFFALO, N.Y. - New York's top court on Feb. 15 agreed to hear a dispute over whether a contract involving coke oven batteries are products for the purposes of an asbestos products liability action or whether the construction project constituted services (In the matter of the Eighth Judicial District Asbestos Litigation, Donald J. Terwilliger, et al. v. Beazer East Inc., et al., No. APL-2018-00023, N.Y. App., 2018 N.Y. LEXIS 187).
DADE CITY, Fla. - A jury in Florida state court on Feb. 20 awarded a family of a deceased smoker $15 million in punitive damages in an Engle progeny suit bringing the total award to $24 million in a suit where they claimed that smoking was the cause of a man's lung cancer and death (Rosemarie Graffeo v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2016CA000233, Fla. Cir., 6th Jud., Pasco Co.).
CHICAGO - A federal judge in Illinois on Feb. 15 found that a waste-processing company could not pursue claims that a port district violated the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) when constructing piers in the 1960s and 1970s using contaminated materials because the plaintiff did not provide sufficient presuit notification to inform the district about the alleged violations (Clean Harbors Services Inc. v. Illinois International Port District, No. 12-CV-7837, N.D. Ill., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24583).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - No confusion exists among the courts on the standard for evaluating punitive damages awards, and the one Crane Co. seeks in attempting to overturn a $10 million asbestos award is both self-serving and short-sighted, a woman told the U.S. Supreme Court Feb. 20 (Crane Co. v. Jeanette G. Poage, No. 17-900, U.S. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 20 denied a petition for a writ of certiorari filed by 137 residents of a Pennsylvania town who say that illegal releases of radioactive materials from a nearby plant caused their cancers and the deaths of their family members and that a federal appeals court erred in ruling on the admissibility of expert testimony in their case (Michelle McMunn, et al. v. Babcock & Wilcox Power Generation Group, Inc., et al., No. 17-907, U.S. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Supreme Court on Feb. 20 vacated a ruling finding jurisdiction in Oklahoma over a Texas-based asbestos defendant and the resulting $6 million verdict and remanded the case for further consideration in light of recent precedent on the issue. In its petition, the drywall materials company had portrayed the Oklahoma court's ruling as "indefensible" and argued that it evidenced the state's continuing disregard for Supreme Court precedent (Murco Wall Products Inc. v. Michael D. Galier, No. 17-733, U.S. Sup.).
BOSTON - The city of Westfield, Mass., on Feb. 14 filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts federal court against 3M Co. and other chemical companies, seeking to recover costs associated with soil and groundwater cleanup due to contamination from the defendants' manufacture and use of aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) (City of Westfield, Massachusetts v. 3M, et al., No. 18-30027, D. Mass.).
MILWAUKEE - The Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed to wade into an asbestos action on Feb. 14, accepting a case in which the lower court found that a man's failure to recall specific worksites was not fatal to his action (Russell Robertson, et al. v. Cleaver-Brooks Inc., et al., No. 2015AP2486, Wis. Sup.).
WILMINGTON, Del. - Recent Third Circuit precedent muddies the bare-metal defense, but ultimately does not save a man's case alleging exposure to third-party asbestos parts added to Crane Co. valves, the company argues in a supplemental brief filed with a judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware on Feb. 15 (Dwight Kenneth Gaston v. Aurora Pump Co., et al., No. 16-579, D. Del.).
MIAMI - Following the closing arguments in an Engle progeny suit on Feb. 15, a judge in Florida state court granted a tobacco company's oral motion for directed verdict in a punitive damages-only trial (Joyce Hardin v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 07-46973-CA-22, Fla. 11th Jud. Cir. Miami-Dade Co.).
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A federal judge on Feb. 12 mostly declined to dismiss claims leveled by the Navajo Nation and state of New Mexico against a company that worked on the Gold King Mine, where a 3-million-gallon spill in 2015 turned rivers yellow with acid mine drainage and 800,000 pounds of heavy metals (State of New Mexico v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, et al., No. 16-cv-465, Navajo Nation v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, et al., No. 16-cv-931, D. N.M., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22548).
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - A panel of Florida's Fourth District Court of Appeal on Feb. 14 affirmed a trial court's decision to allow a plaintiff's expert to testify and reinstated the full $2 million verdict in an Engle progeny suit after finding that the court erred by reducing the award based on comparative fault (Philip Morris USA Inc., et al. v. Robert A. Gore Sr., No. 4D15-3892, Fla. App., 4th Dist., 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 2274).
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The California Supreme Court on Feb. 14 denied a petition for review filed by the former makers of lead-based paint who contended that the high court should hear their appeal because an appellate court "misstated and omitted material facts" when it found that there was "substantial evidence" that the companies promoted paints containing white lead pigments for interior residential use (The People v. ConAgra Grocery Products Company, et al., No. S246102, Calif. Sup.).
MIAMI - A panel of the Third District Florida Court of Appeal on Feb. 14 found that a trial court erred in dismissing an Engle progeny suit because the 90-day period to substitute a plaintiff had been extinguished when the plaintiff's family filed a motion before an executor of the estate was named (Jerry Feller v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 3D16-2389, Fla. App., 3rd Dist., 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 2160).
KANSAS CITY, Kan. - A rail car company provided no justification for why it could not have identified an expert asbestos state-of-the-art witness prior to the passage of an already extended deadline, a federal judge in Kansas held Feb. 13 in denying a motion to extend discovery and disclosure periods (Nancy Little, et al. v. The Budd Co., No. 16-4170, D. Kan., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23230).
CINCINNATI - A woman who was formerly the administrator for the city of Flint, Mich., and then became a whistleblower after the lead-contaminated water crisis in that city on Feb. 14 filed a brief in the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals contending that a district court erred when it granted the city's motion for summary judgment because there are genuine disputes of material facts regarding her claims under state law, as well as the First Amendment (Natasha Henderson v. City of Flint, Mich., No. 17-2031, 6th Cir.).
NEW ORLEANS - A Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Feb. 14 overruled arguments by the federal government and CITGO Petroleum Corp. to a federal judge in Louisiana's ruling that the company should pay an $81 million civil penalty for violating the Clean Water Act following a 2006 oil spill at its Lake Charles facility, finding that they lacked merit (United States of America v. CITGO Petroleum Corp., No. 16-30515, 5th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 3392).
NEW YORK - In a coverage dispute over asbestos litigation costs, a reinsurer and insurer submitted letters on Feb. 9 to the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals concerning how a New York high court ruling applies to a reinsurance contract's per-occurrence liability cap (Global Reinsurance Corporation of America v. Century Indemnity Co., No. 15-2164, 2nd Cir.).
LOS ANGELES - A California federal judge on Feb. 9 certified one of two proposed subclasses, comprising oil platform and processing facility workers, in a lawsuit against the operators of a Santa Barbara, Calif., pipeline that leaked into the Pacific Ocean in May 2015, finding that common questions predominate (Keith Andrews, et al. v. Plains All American Pipeline, L.P., et al., No. 15-4113, C.D. Calif.).
HOUSTON - Texas law requires that claimants give notice of a workers' compensation claim within six months of the incident, rendering untimely a woman's asbestos action filed years after her husband retired as a judge, the county told a Texas appellate court on Feb. 12 (Jefferson County, Texas v. Ellarene Farris, et al., No. 01-17-00493-CV, Texas App., 1st Dist.).
NEW ORLEANS - The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and two other environmental advocacy groups on Feb. 13 filed a petition in the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals contending that the Circuit Court should review an Environmental Protection Agency permit that allows oil companies to discharge toxins into the Gulf of Mexico, which the CBD argues puts coastal communities at risk (Center for Biological Diversity, et al. v. Environmental Protection Agency, et al., No. N/A, 5th Cir.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on Feb. 13 announced its proposed changes to the 2016 Waste Prevention Rule, calling for the rescission of the majority of regulations on oil and gas operators who had been required to control the venting and flaring of methane produced by drilling activities.
COLUMBUS, Ohio - A federal judge in Ohio on Feb. 9 granted a motion by plaintiffs in the multidistrict litigation brought against E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. for alleged injuries connected to exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid (known as C8), approving the interim disbursement of $1,787,500 to the claims administrator for services rendered (In re: E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. C8 Personal Injury Litigation, MDL No. 2433, No. 13-2433, S.D. Ohio).
NEW ORLEANS - Shell Chemical LP on Feb. 12 entered into a consent decree in Louisiana federal court with the government and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) in which the company agreed to spend $10 million to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the use of four industrial flares at its Norco, La., facility (United States of America, et al. v. Shell Chemical LP, No. 18-cv-104, E.D. La.).
DETROIT - Engineering consultants named as defendants in the lead-contaminated water crisis in Flint, Mich., and the class of plaintiffs alleging that they have been injured by that water on Feb. 9 filed briefs debating whether the federal district court has jurisdiction to order certain discovery at the current stage of the litigation (In re Flint Water Cases [Luke Waid, et al. v. Richard D. Snyder, et al.], No. 16-10444, E.D. Mich.).