WASHINGTON, DC. - The U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1 rejected a petition challenging the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals' finding that defendants in a Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) lawsuit can raise an "act of war" defense against claims seeking reimbursement for cleanup costs of toxic dust caused by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC) (Cedar & Washington Associates, LLC v. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, et al., 14-239, U.S. Sup.).
SEATTLE - According to its docket, Washington state's top court on Nov. 25 denied a motion for rehearing, leaving stand a ruling that an employer did not trigger the deliberate intent exception to the workers' compensation statute by ordering employees to return to an asbestos-contaminated workspace (Gary G. Walston and Donna Walston v. The Boeing Co., No. 885117, Wash. Sup.).
HOUSTON - The federal judge in Texas presiding over a contract dispute between a hydraulic fracturing company and another company that provided technology services for the operation of the fracking business on Dec. 1 issued an order setting the deadline for discovery, mediation and eventual trial, if necessary (Southwestern Energy Production Co. v. Crawford Technical Services LLC, No. H-14-1742, S.D. Texas).
PHILADELPHIA - The policy reasons behind the severance of punitive damages in the federal asbestos litigation remain, various defendants argue in Nov. 26 briefs urging the judge overseeing the litigation to continue the practice (Kenneth McAfee and Shirley McAfee v. 20th Century Glove Corporation of Texas, et al., No. 13-6856, Gerald Morris and Barbara Morris v. Honeywell International Inc., et al., No. 13-6591, E.D. Pa.).
NEW ORLEANS - The federal judge in Louisiana overseeing litigation stemming from the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and ensuing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on Nov. 26 refused to reconsider his decision affirming the interpretation of the administrator of the Medical Benefits Class Action Settlement Agreement (MSA) that the settlement does not include payouts for individuals whose condition was not diagnosed by April 16, 2012, after finding that the terms of the agreement are not ambiguous (In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig "Deepwater Horizon" in the Gulf of Mexico, April 20, 2010, MDL No. 2179, E.D. La.).
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The owner of a defunct asbestos fiber supplier and its attorney may not be pursued in hopes of fulfilling a $3 million judgment, an Illinois appellate court held Nov. 24 (James Shipley v. Stephen Hoke, Patrick Shine and Cooney & Conway and The C.P. Hall Co., Nos. 4-13-0810, 4-13-0837, Ill. App., 4th Dist.; 2014 Ill. App. LEXIS 813).
HOUSTON - An oil and gas exploration company on Nov. 25 filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas against a hydraulic fracturing company, contending that it has breached its contract by not offering the exploration company an opportunity to purchase a proportionate share of oil and gas assets the exploration company says it is due under a contract with a previous company (Energy & Exploration Partners LLC v. New Gulf Resources LLC, No. 14-03375, S.D. Texas).
SAN FRANCISCO - A property group seeking to intervene in a lawsuit against a company accused of contaminating a site must amend its claims for declaratory relief under the Carpenter-Presley-Tanner Hazardous Substance Account Act (HSAA), California's equivalent of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), because the claim is duplicative of its request for declaratory relief under the federal statute, a federal judge in California ruled Nov. 25 (California River Watch v. Fluor Corporation, No. 10-cv-05105-WHO, N.D. Calif.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 164795).
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - A group of Mississippi residents that contend that Hercules Inc. has released toxic chemicals into their groundwater on Nov. 24 filed a brief in Mississippi federal court seeking to modify a case management order (CMO) for the purpose of correcting "clear errors of law and to prevent manifest injustices" (Dorothy Abner, et al. v. Hercules Inc., et al., No. 14-63, S.D. Miss.).
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A federal judge in West Virginia on Nov. 26 approved an addendum to a consent decree that would require Alpha Natural Resources Inc. to pay $27.5 million in civil penalties for violating the Clean Water Act (CWA), after finding that the agreement was the result of five years of investigation and negotiations with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (United States of America, et al. v. Alpha Natural Resources Inc., et al., No. 14-11609, S.D. W.Va.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 165842).
OAKLAND, Calif. - A 71-year-old mesothelioma sufferer doing "reasonably well" is nonetheless entitled to trial preference based on age and resulting prejudice if he dies, a California appellate panel held Nov. 26 (Gerald Boyd, et al. v. The Superior Court of Alameda County, 3M Co., et al., No. A143511, Calif. App., 1st Dist., Div. 3; 2014 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 8565).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A federal judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims on Nov. 26 affirmed the denial of benefits for a veteran who contended that he was injured as a result of exposure to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam. The judge said the documentary evidence from the veteran's doctors was "inherently inconsistent" (Carl E. Geniac v. Robert McDonald, No. 13-2764, Vet. Clms.; 2014 U.S. App. Vet. Claims LEXIS 1982).
NEW ORLEANS - A judge improperly pierced the pleadings in determining whether two defendants were fraudulently joined in an asbestos action, despite the lack of any alleged jurisdictional fraud or any showing that plaintiffs could not recover from the defendants, plaintiffs told the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Nov. 26 (Tina Davidson, et al. v. Georgia Pacific LLC, et al., No. 14-30925, 5th Cir.).
NEW ORLEANS - Attending safety meetings and knowing about the dangers of asbestos fall short of the type of control required for a strict liability claim under pre-1996 Louisiana law, a federal judge held Nov. 21 (Michael Comardelle v. Pennsylvania General Insurance Co., et al., No. 13-6555, E.D. La.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 163205).
NEW YORK - The attorney representing a group of Ecuadorian residents who won an $18.5 billion judgment against Chevron Corp. for personal injuries caused by the company's oil operations in the Lago Agrio region of Ecuador filed a brief in the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Nov. 25, contending that Chevron's lawsuit against him should be dismissed in its entirety (Chevron Corporation v. Steven R. Donziger, et al., No. 14-826, 2nd Cir.).
ATLANTA - Crane Co. cannot be liable under Georgia law for asbestos-containing replacement parts on its valves because the state's laws implicitly accept the bare metal defense, a federal judge in Georgia held Nov. 21 (Mike Thurmon, et al. v. A.W. Chesterton Inc., et al., No. 11-1407, N.D. Ga.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 164136).
ALBANY, N.Y. - A divided New York Court of Appeals on Nov. 25 affirmed a lower court ruling that additional payments were not available on an insurance policy for injuries suffered as a result of exposure to lead-based paint because the policy limits were not increased when the policy was renewed (Jannie Nesmith v. Allstate Insurance Company, No. 187, N.Y. App.; 2014 N.Y. LEXIS 3350).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims on Nov. 25 reversed a ruling that concluded that a veteran's injuries were not caused by exposure to Agent Orange, determining that the examiner who reached that conclusion did so "without any supporting rationale" (Robert E. Kring v. Robert A. McDonald, No. 12-3235, Vet. Clms. App.; 2014 U.S. App. Vet. Claims LEXIS 1959).
PHILADELPHIA - The judge overseeing the federal maritime asbestos docket included punitive damages in a Nov. 24 order remanding 50 asbestos claims. Sources said it is believed to be the first time the judge has remanded punitive damage claims (In re: Asbestos Products Liability Litigation [No. VI] Various -plaintiffs v. Various defendants, No. MDL 02-875, E.D. Pa.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 25 agreed to review a District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency did not exceed its authority when enacting a rule limiting mercury and other toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants (Utility Air Regulatory Group v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 14-47, State of Michigan v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 14-46, National Mining Association v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 14-49, U.S. Sup.).
BALTIMORE - District judges retain the power to issue sanctions in remanded cases, including vacating remand, a divided en banc Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held Nov. 25 in an asbestos-tainted talc action (Joyce Barlow v. Colgate Palmolive Co. and John Crane-Houdille Inc., et al., Clara Mosko v. Colgate Palmolive Co. and John Crane-Houdaille Inc., et al., Nos. 13-1839, 13-1840, 4th Cir.).
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., which is being sued by a West Virginia resident who claims that she was injured by perfluorooctanic acid, also known as C8, that was released by the company's plant in Wood County, W.Va., on Nov. 25 removed the case to West Virginia federal court (Jacolyn Bailey v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., No. 14-28949, S.D. W.Va.).
CAMDEN, N.J. - The parties in the consolidated Paulsboro train derailment litigation in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey on Nov. 24 stipulated that a plaintiff who had been dismissed earlier in the litigation could file an amended complaint and name additional defendants (In re: Paulsboro Derailment Cases, No. 13-784, D. N.J.).
COLUMBUS, Ohio - A federal judge in Ohio on Nov. 24 ruled that an index of documents the Army Corps of Engineers is withholding pursuant to a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filed by Ohio residents who want information about hydraulic fracturing operations in a watershed conservancy district is not warranted at this time (Leantra Harper v. Department of the Army Huntington District, Corps of Engineers, No. 14-986, S.D. Ohio; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 164053).
LOS ANGELES - Imposing liability on a premises owner for household exposures to asbestos threatens "limitless liability," a divided California appeals panel held Nov. 21 in affirming judgment for the company (Wanda L. Beckering v. Shell Oil Co., No. B256407, Calif. App., 2nd Dist.; 2014 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 8363).