AUSTIN, Texas - On remand from the Texas Supreme Court, a state appellate panel on March 24 found that a tax enacted on nonparticipating manufacturers in a statewide tobacco settlement does not violate the equal protection and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution and reversed summary judgment granted to the small tobacco companies (Glenn Hegar, et al. v. Texas Small Tobacco Coalition and Global Tobacco Inc., No. 03-13-00753-CV, Texas App., 3rd Dist., 2017 Tex. App. LEXIS 2547).
TRENTON, N.J. - The New Jersey Supreme Court on March 27 voted 6-1 in favor of vacating a ruling denying the state of New Jersey's motion to dismiss a contribution lawsuit brought by NL Industries Inc. under the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act (Spill Act), finding that the state could raise the sovereign immunity defense for an incident that occurred before the act was enacted (NL Industries, Inc. v. State of New Jersey, No. A-44-15, N.J. Sup., 2017 N.J. LEXIS 325).
BOSTON - The First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on March 24 determined that a disability insurer acted arbitrarily and capriciously by relying on a job description of a generic "lawyer" rather than a job description of a specialized "environmental lawyer" when it determined the onset date of a claimant's disability (Jane Doe v. Standard Insurance Co., No. 16-2085, 1st Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 5232).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A group of Ecuadorian residents and their attorney who challenge a fraud ruling with regard to an $18.5 billion judgment they previously won against Chevron Corp. filed a petition for writ of certiorari March 27 in the U.S. Supreme Court contending that "the Second Circuit's unprecedented authorization of a preemptive collateral attack on a foreign country's money judgment warrants" the high court's intervention (Steven Donziger, et al. v. Chevron Corporation, No. 16A686, and Hugo Gerardo Camacho Naranjo v. Chevron Corporation, No. 16A714, U.S. Sup.).
CHICAGO - Illinois federal court is the wrong jurisdiction for John Crane Inc.'s fraud and racketeering claims against two law firms and their founders, two federal judges held separately March 23 in dismissing the company's lawsuits, but without prejudice to refile the actions in the proper courts (John Crane Inc. v. Shein Law Center Ltd., et al., No. 16-5913, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42758, John Crane Inc. v. Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett, et al., No. 16-5918, N.D. Ill., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41840).
BUFFALO, N.Y. - Any delay in a retired police officer's notice of intent to file an asbestos tort action against the City of Buffalo was reasonable given the facts of the case, and no evidence suggests the municipality will suffer prejudice from the late notice, a New York appeals court held March 24 (In the Matter of James R. Diegelman, et al. v. City of Buffalo, et al., No. CA 14-01919, N.Y. App., 4th Dept., 2017 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 2279).
RICHMOND, Va. - A federal judge in Virginia on March 23 ruled that an electric utility company violated the Clean Water Act (CWA) by dumping arsenic into the groundwater but said that the remedy sought by an environmental group was "draconian." The judge also refused to find that the utility had violated its state-issued permits and prescribed "more extensive monitoring" of the site where the contamination occurred (Sierra Club v. Virginia Electric and Power Company, d/b/a Dominion Virginia Power, No. 15-112, E.D. Va.).
NEW YORK - A federal judge in New York on March 24 found that United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) is liable and will owe damages to New York City and New York state for shipping untaxed cigarettes to unauthorized sellers (The State of New York, et al. v. United Parcel Service Inc., No. 15-cv-1136, S.D. N.Y., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 43495).
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - A Maryland appeals panel on March 22 affirmed a trial court ruling that dismissed a lawsuit against the Kennedy Krieger Institute Inc. (KKI) brought by the estate of a deceased man who contended that he had suffered from lead-paint poisoning as a result of participating in a lead abatement study KKI ran in the 1990s (Kimberly Smith, personal representative of the Estate of Cecil Harris III v. Kennedy Krieger Institute Inc., No. 2241, Sept. Term, 2014; 2017 Md. App. LEXIS 305).
WILMINGTON, Del. - The Delaware Supreme Court on March 23 determined that the law of New York should be applied in a dispute over the allocation of environmental contamination claims because New York has the most significant relationship with the parties and applying the law of the state in which an environmental cleanup site is located, as proposed by the lower court, would result in an inconsistent application of a policy's contract language (Chemtura Corp. v. Certain Underwriters at CCLC Lloyd's, et al., No. 371, 2016, Del. Sup., 2017 Del. LEXIS 127).
BALTIMORE - A Maryland federal judge on March 22 denied an underlying plaintiff's motion for a temporary restraining order seeking to ban an insurer and its insured from reaching a settlement for an underlying judgment awarded for personal injuries in a lead paint exposure suit (CX Reinsurance Co. Ltd., v. Benjamin L. Kirson, et al., No. 15-3132, D. Md., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41230).
DES MOINES, Iowa - Iowa became the first state to legislatively bar asbestos claims arising from third-party parts on March 23 after its governor signed legislation codifying the bare-metal and component parts doctrine. The law also requires additional transparency in asbestos-related trust filings, imposes medical criteria from bringing asbestos- and silica-related claims, restricts trial consolidation and negates certain forms of successor liability.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A government watchdog group on March 21 filed a complaint in District of Columbia federal court against the Environmental Protection Agency, alleging that the agency violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552, by not timely providing certain employees' communications that were sent using an encryption application (Cause of Action Institute v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 1:17-cv-00509, D. D.C.).
NEW YORK - Rejecting both plaintiffs' larger proposed trial groups and concern of prejudice by defendants, a New York justice in an opinion posted March 21 found that 11 cases' similarities warranted four trial groups and two separate trials (Walter Cunningham, et al. v. Aerco Intl., et al., No. 190136/2014, N.Y. Sup., New York Co.).
DETROIT - Some of the defendants sued by residents of Flint, Mich., in connection with the lead-contaminated drinking water in that city filed a brief in Michigan federal court on March 21, arguing that the lawsuit meets the local controversy exception to the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) and, therefore, the court should deny a motion filed by another group of defendants asking it to alter its judgment with regard to exercising its jurisdiction over state law claims (Myia McMillian, et al. v. Governor Richard D. Snyder, et al., No. 16-10796, E.D. Mich.).
NEW ORLEANS - BP Exploration and Production Inc. and BP America Production Co. (collectively, BP) were awarded summary judgment by a federal judge in Louisiana on March 20 after she found that a man was unable to produce evidence that his exposure to dispersants during cleanup activities following the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico caused him to develop lung cancer (Pero Cibilic, et al. v. BP Exploration & Production, Inc., et al., No. 15-995, E.D. La., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40056).
NEW ORLEANS - The federal judge in Louisiana who is overseeing litigation stemming from damages caused by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that followed the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in April 2010 ruled March 17 that individuals whose claims arise from federal moratoria on drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico can opt out of the Deepwater Horizon Economic Loss and Property Damage Settlement Program if they are not resolved by March 25 (In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig "Deepwater Horizon" in the Gulf of Mexico, on April 20, 2010, MDL 2179, Case No. 12-970, E.D. La.).
NEW YORK - An asbestos action filed outside Wisconsin's two-year window for suing Special Electric Co. Inc. after its dissolution is untimely, and an earlier motion to reopen and enforce its bankruptcy plan does not save the case, a New York justice held in an opinion posted March 21 (In re: New York City Asbestos Litigation, Thomas McGlynn v. Aerco International Inc., No. 190219/2016, 2017 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 900, In re: New York City Asbestos Litigation, Bertle Stromholm, et al. v. Aerco International Inc., No. 190177/2016, N.Y. Sup., New York Co.).
SIOUX CITY, Iowa - A federal judge in Iowa on March 17 dismissed a groundwater contamination lawsuit brought by a local agency that supplies drinking water, concluding that its claims against local government agencies regarding liability for the costs of complying with clean water laws "have no merit" (Board of Water Works Trustees of the City of Des Moines, Iowa v. SAC County Board of Supervisors as Trustees of Drainage Districts 32, 42, 65, 79, 81, 83, 86, et al., 15-4020, N.D. Iowa; 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39025).
NEW YORK - A New York justice refused to impose a heeding presumption in an asbestos trial in an opinion posted March 20, saying that absent evidence that a cigarette user who ignored tobacco warnings would have acted differently in the asbestos context, she would not impose such a standard (Donna Castorina, et al. v. A.C.&S., et al., No. 123077/01, N.Y. Sup., New York Co.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced March 17 that it has awarded a $100 million grant to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to fund drinking water infrastructure upgrades in Flint, Mich.
ST. LOUIS - A Missouri woman on March 17 filed a lawsuit against Monsanto Co. in Missouri federal court, alleging that the company committed scientific fraud and is liable for her development of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), which was the result of exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup (Linda Crane v. Monsanto Co., No. 17-982, E.D. Mo.).
NEW ORLEANS - A Louisiana federal judge on March 16 found that an English insurer's removal of a former machinist's asbestos-related claims from a state court was appropriate, finding that the dispute could relate to an underlying arbitration agreement contained in an insurance policy (James Edward O'Connor v. Maritime Management Corp., et al., No. 16-16201, E.D. La., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37798).
FRESNO, Calif. - A judge properly admitted expert testimony that every identifiable exposure to asbestos contributes to mesothelioma, a California appeals court held March 17, while also rejecting challenges involving tobacco use and an award of punitive damages (Charity Faith Phillips, et al. v. Honeywell International Inc., No. F070761, Calif. App., 5th Dist.).
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A federal judge in West Virginia on March 14 approved a consent decree that would require Pocahontas Land Corp. to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit to resolve allegations brought by three environmental groups that the company was violating the Clean Water Act (CWA) (Ohio Valle Environmental Coalition, et al. v. Pocahontas Land Corporation, No. 15-cv-15515, S.D. W.Va., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36145).