TAMPA, Fla. - A Florida jury on April 21 awarded the widow of a smoker in a tobacco suit a total of $12 million in punitive damages, bringing the total award against a tobacco company to $15 million (Mary Lima v. R.J. Reynolds, et al., No. 2015CA007140, Fla. Cir., 13th Jud. Cir. Hillsborough Co.).
PHILADELPHIA - The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on April 21 reversed a $36 million judgment entered against an insurer in an asbestos coverage dispute after determining that an asbestos exclusion is not ambiguous and bars coverage for underlying asbestos-related claims filed against the insured (General Refractories Company v. First State Insurance Co., et al., No. 15-3409, 3rd Cir.).
NEW YORK - Because a federal court's ruling enforcing a permanent anti-suit injunction issued as part of a $5.5 billion settlement in the Chapter 11 case of Tronox Inc. is not a final order, it cannot be appealed by 4,300 individuals who say they were injured from the company's operation of a wood-treatment plant in Pennsylvania, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said April 20 (Avoca plaintiffs, et al. v. Kerr-McGee Corp., et al., No. 16-343, 2nd Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 6949).
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - A federal judge in Texas on April 19 remanded a class action lawsuit alleging groundwater contamination by a group of defendant chemical companies, ruling that the local exception to federal class action law applied (MD Haynes Inc. d/b/a Cici's Pizza, et al. v. Valero Marketing and Supply Co., et al., No. 17-6, S.D. Texas; 2017 U.S. Dist., LEXIS 59495).
DETROIT - Consumers who purchased Volkswagen vehicles with software designed to cheat emissions tests cannot seek restitution from the auto manufacturer as part of criminal proceedings brought by the federal government against the company because it would unduly prolong the sentencing process, a federal judge in Michigan ruled April 21 (United States of America v. James Robert Liang, et al., No. 16-cr-20394, E.D. Mich.).
DETROIT - A federal judge in Michigan on April 21 ordered Volkswagen AG to pay a $2.8 billion fine for equipping its diesel vehicles with software designed to cheat emissions tests after the company pleaded guilty to counts of conspiracy to defraud the United States, wire fraud and violations of the Clean Air Act (CAA) (United States of America v. James Robert Liang, et al., No. 16-cr-20394, E.D. Mich.).
RALEIGH, N.C. - Substantial evidence supports an industrial commission's conclusion that a mechanic's last injurious exposure to asbestos occurred during his work at his own business, a North Carolina appeals panel held April 18 (Melissa Lovelace, et al. v B&R Auto Service Inc., et al., No. COA16-1045, N.C. App., 2017 N.C. App. LEXIS 310).
DES MOINES, Iowa - Counsel's "continuous disregard" for rulings excluding evidence of how much a defendant spent defending asbestos actions and the application of the statute of repose requires a new trial, an Iowa appeals court held April 19 (Shari Kinseth and Ricky Kinseth, et al. v. Weil-McLain Co., and State of Iowa, ex. Rel. Civil Reparations Trust Fund, No. 15-0943, Iowa App.; 2017 Iowa App. LEXIS 363).
HARRISBURG, Pa. - The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court on April 21 adopted an insured's application of a continuous trigger of coverage rather than the insurer's application of a first manifestation trigger of coverage in an environmental contamination coverage dispute after determining that environmental contamination claims are similar to asbestos bodily injury claims, which are subject to a continuous trigger pursuant to precedent established by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court (Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association Insurance Co., v. Johnson Matthey Inc. et al., No. 330 M.D. 2015, Pa. Cmwlth.).
TACOMA, Wash. - A Washington jury awarded $81.5 million April 17 to a widow and her two daughters in their case alleging that their decedent suffered exposure to asbestos in automobile friction products, sources told Mealey's Publications (Gerri Coogan, et al. v. Genuine Parts Co. et al., No. 15-2-09504-3, Wash. Super., Pierce Co.).
PORTLAND, Ore. - A federal magistrate judge in Oregon on April 18 recommending denying Monsanto Co.'s motion to dismiss product liability claims brought by the Port of Portland, over polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination, finding that the plaintiff does not clearly state when it discovered the injury (Port of Portland v. Monsanto Co., et al., No. 17-15, D. Ore.).
NEW YORK - A panel of the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on April 20 ruled that it lacked jurisdiction to decide a case in which a group of residents sued Tronox Inc. contending that they had been harmed as a result of exposure to wood treated with creosote at the company's plant in Pennsylvania (Avoca Plaintiffs v. Kerr-McGee Corporation; In Re: Tronox Inc., No. 16-343, 2nd Cir.).
TRENTON, N.J. - A group of New Jersey residents on April 16 filed a brief in New Jersey federal court contending that their complaint against a refining company alleging contamination from heavy metals asserts valid claims (Juan Duarte, et al. v. United States Metal Refining Company, No. 17-1624, D. N.J.).
ASHEVILLE, N.C. - A company being sued by a North Carolina man who contends that he contracted cancer as a result of groundwater contamination for which the man says the company is liable on April 17 filed a brief in North Carolina federal court, arguing that the case should be dismissed because the plaintiffs cannot show causation (Kent Stahle v. CTS Corporation, No. 14-48, W.D. N.C.).
CLEVELAND - Ohio's Supreme Court on April 19 agreed to wade into a dispute over the admissibility of expert causation testimony in an asbestos case, according to its docket (Mark Schwartz, et al. v. Honeywell International Inc., et al., No. 103377, Ohio Sup.).
CHICAGO - A jury in Illinois federal court on April 13 issued a verdict against a group of residents who had sued two companies for allegedly contaminating its groundwater with vinyl chloride. The verdict sheet did not elaborate on the jury's decision (Village of Sauk Village v. Roadway Express Inc., et al., No. 15-9183, N.D. Ill.).
SAN FRANCISCO - Indonesia's interests in preventing, and compensating for, asbestos exposures by residents support a judge's conclusion that Hawaii is not the best forum for a former chemistry teacher's lawsuit, a divided Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel held April 14 (James S. Herbert, et al. v. Fisher Scientific Co. LLC, et al., No. 14-15760, 9th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 6464).
DETROIT - A group of Flint, Mich., residents on April 13 sued state and city officials in Michigan federal court, contending that they are liable for lead contamination in the city's drinking water for their respective roles in making the decision to use the Flint River as the water supply for the city without first ensuring that the pipes were protected against corrosion (Kimberly Gaddy, et al. v. City of Flint, et al., No. 17-11166, E.D. Mich.).
CINCINNATI - The modification of a consent decree that extended the deadline for upgrades to one of two coal-burning power plants in Rockport, Ind., violated a contract between owners and operators of the facility because it would require the owners to make the improvements and pay for them after expiration of the lease, a Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled April 14 (Wilmington Trust Company, et al. v. AEP Generating Company, et al., No. 16-3496, 6th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 6426).
FORT WAYNE, Ind. - None of the approximately 185 emails between an insured and two of its environmental contractors are protected by the attorney-client privilege; however, a portion of the emails on are protected by the work product doctrine, an Indiana federal magistrate judge determined April 14 after conducting an in camera review of the emails sought by an insurer in an environmental contamination coverage dispute (Valley Forge Insurance Co. v. Hartford Iron & Metal Inc., et al., No. 14-006, N.D. Ind.; 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 57370).
RENO, Nev. - A federal judge in Nevada on April 13 found that a cigar company that filed a counterclaim against the owner of several properties in Nevada failed to state a "cognizable" counterclaim in a suit where the property owner claimed that the cigar company failed to collect taxes on tobacco products as required by Nevada law (Wynn Las Vegas LLC v. Cigar Row LLC, No. 2:15-CV-01079, D. Nev., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56886).
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A federal judge in Kentucky on April 12 dismissed a lawsuit brought by a class of residents who contended that they were exposed to hazardous chemicals from a coal-fired power plant so that the plaintiffs could file the claims in Kentucky state court. The judge declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims (Kathy Little, et al. v. Louisville Gas & Electric Company, No. 13-1214, W.D. Ky.; 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56467).
NEW YORK - Some post-exposure regulatory material, evidence relating to studies involving animals and videotapes of Tyndall lighting tests demonstrating the dust released during certain work may be used at an asbestos trial, a justice in New York held in an opinion posted April 11 (Jeanne Evans, et al. v. 3M Co., et al., No. 190109/2015, N.Y. Sup., New York Co., 2017 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 1223).
LAKELAND, Fla. - Recognizing that its ruling created a conflict with other appellate courts in Florida, a panel of the Second District Florida Court of Appeal on April 12 found that a trial court in an Engle progeny suit erred by reducing a compensatory award to a couple because a Florida statute governing negligence cases does not require compensatory awards to be reduced by the plaintiff's comparative fault (Philip Morris USA Inc., et al. v. Richard Boatright, et al., No. 2D15-622, Richard Boatright, et al. v. Philip Morris USA Inc., et al., No. 2D15-1781, Fla. App. 2nd Dist., 2017 Fla. App. LEXIS 5027).