In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, courts and litigants are reinventing civil litigation – holding hearings on Zoom or Skype, using emails and conference calls to communicate status, and taking remote depositions. That said, “virtual discovery” is not new. Since 1993, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure expressly authorized taking depositions by remote electronic means. States including Ohio, Massachusetts and Texas have followed suit. See, e.g., Ohio R. Civ. P. 30(b)(6); Mass. R. Civ. P. 29; Tex. R. Civ. P. 199.1

Continue Reading Pitfalls of Remote Depositions

St. LouisSt. Louis City Judge Michael K. Mullen recently entered an important order interpreting Missouri’s 2019 legislation governing joinder and venue law. See Order, Johnson v. Bayer Corporation, et al., 1622-CC01049-01 (Mo. Cir. Ct. St. Louis Cty. May 5, 2020) (Johnson). Put simply, St. Louis City’s automatically-generated trial docket dates (the “rolling docket”) do not satisfy the eligibility requirement of a having a “trial date” on or before August 28, 2019 within the savings clause.
Continue Reading Toxic Tort Monitor: Venue Statute’s Savings Clause Clarified by St. Louis City Order

Map of Illinois.On June 4, the Illinois Supreme Court issued an opinion that further limits the exercise of personal jurisdiction over out-of-state defendants in Christy Rios et al., v. Bayer Corporation et al., and Nichole Hamby et al., v. Bayer Corporation et al., 2020 IL 125020. At issue was whether “Illinois may exercise specific personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant as to the claims of out-of-state plaintiffs for personal injuries suffered outside of Illinois from a device manufactured outside of Illinois.” Following rulings from the United States Supreme Court and those from other states, the court answered with a resounding: “no.”

Continue Reading Illinois Reins in Exercise of Personal Jurisdiction over Out-of-State Defendants for Nonresidents’ Claims

On March 10, 2020, in a 54 to 46 vote, the Iowa House of Representatives passed Senate File 2337 (SF2337) in an effort to reduce the over-naming of asbestos defendants in related lawsuits filed in Iowa.  The legislation focuses on reducing, or eliminating, the over-naming of asbestos defendants by requiring plaintiffs to provide detailed evidence of exposure for each named defendant. While Iowa is not known as a hot-spot for asbestos-related lawsuits, Iowa has reportedly seen its fair share of alleged asbestos related deaths.¹ Iowa’s lack of asbestos filings likely comes as a result of the state’s significant tort reform efforts, with SF2337 being the latest addition.

Continue Reading Toxic Tort Monitor: Over-Naming of Asbestos Defendants Bill Awaits Iowa’s Governor

Missouri flag with gavel toxic tort verdictOn May 12, 2020, the Missouri legislature passed Senate Bill 591 (SB 591), which provides major changes related to how punitive damages are assessed in civil and medical malpractice actions and brings significant reform to the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA), Missouri’s consumer protection law. Missouri Governor Mike Parsons is expected to sign the bill shortly.

Continue Reading Toxic Tort Monitor: Missouri Senate Bill 591 Provides Clarity and Safeguards for Defendants

Mallet, legal code and scales of justice. Law concept, studio shotsLitigators have closely followed a recent decision that has provided needed guidance and has reshaped how asbestos liabilities are apportioned in strict liability cases. On February 19, 2020, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued its long-awaited opinion in Roverano, et al., v. John Crane, Inc., et al., 6 EAP 2018 (Pa. Feb. 19, 2020), which held that in strict liability asbestos cases, damages are to be split per capita among remaining defendants, and that the Fair Share Act under 42 Pa.C.S. § 7102 does not require percentage apportionment of liability in strict liability cases. The decision further held that bankruptcy trusts may be included on the verdict sheet to bring more parties to the table for the purpose of apportioning liability only.

Continue Reading Toxic Tort Monitor: Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Rejects Fair Apportionment of Liability Among Strictly Liable Defendants Under the Fair Share Act

On January 21, 2020, the Fourth District Appellate Court reversed a $3.2 million asbestos jury verdict, holding Tremco, Incorporated (Tremco) was entitled to judgment notwithstanding the verdict where Plaintiff presented insufficient evidence of causation. Krumwiede v. Tremco, Inc., 2020 IL App (4th) 180434.

Continue Reading Toxic Tort Monitor: Illinois Appellate Court Overturns Asbestos Jury Verdict Based on Insufficient Evidence of Causation

On January 3, 2020, in Mary Ellerbrock, Individually, and as Special Administrator of the Estate of Alex Kaszynski, Deceased, v. A.O. Smith Corp., et. al. (case No. 18-L-1434), the Third Judicial Circuit Court in Madison County, IL, denied defendant PW Power Systems’ (“PW”) motion to transfer based on forum non conveniens. In this asbestos case, premises Defendant PW sought to have the case moved from Madison County, IL to LaSalle County, IL. In denying PW’s motion, the Court referenced the Supreme Court’s decision in Fennell v. Illinois Central R.R. Co., emphasizing “[t]he defendant must show that the plaintiff’s chosen forum is inconvenient to the defendant and that another forum is more convenient to all parties.” 2012 IL 113812, ¶ 6. The Court’s reliance on Fennell for support that all defendants must join the motion is misplaced given that Fennell involved only one defendant.

Continue Reading Toxic Tort Monitor: Madison County Court Denies Intrastate Motion to Transfer Based on Forum Non Conveniens

On December 19, 2019, the First District issued its opinion in Daniels v. Arvinmeritor, Inc., affirming a $6 million verdict for the estate of Patrick O’Reilly, a union pipefitter from 1957 to 1998 who passed away from mesothelioma in April of 2017. 2019 IL App (1st) 190170 (formerly Daniels v. John Crane, Inc.). John Crane was the only defendant left when the jury verdict was reached, subjecting it to a nearly $5 million liability after set-offs were subtracted. After its motion for a new trial was denied, John Crane appealed arguing the trial erred in denying its post-trial motion because the  court: (1) allowed Plaintiff’s medical expert, Dr. Abraham, to testify that the cumulative dose of Plaintiff’s exposure to all products caused his injury; (2) provided inaccurate jury instructions regarding proximate cause and the state of the art defense in asbestos cases; (3) failed to include four settled defendants on the jury form; and (4) did not properly analyze certain settlement agreements prior to making good faith findings. The appellate court ultimately affirmed the judgment of the circuit court. Below is a brief analysis on each of the issues on appeal.

Continue Reading Toxic Tort Monitor: $6 Million Verdict Affirmed by Illinois Appellate Court in Mesothelioma Case

The Illinois Supreme Court recently reversed and remanded the appellate court’s ruling in Jones v. Pneumo Abex LLC, Nos. 123895, 124002 cons. (Ill. 2019), holding the Fifth District failed to follow long-standing Illinois precedent rejecting identical civil conspiracy claims. The Supreme Court held the appellate court erred by distinguishing the present case, decided on summary judgment, from McClure v. Owens Corning Fiberglas Corp., 188 Ill. 2d 102 (1999), a case decided on a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The Court stated that, as under the current facts, “[i]f all relevant evidence is before the court and upon such evidence there would be nothing left to go to a jury so that the court would be required to enter a directed verdict, denying summary judgment to permit further proceedings to take place would serve no purpose.”

Continue Reading Illinois Supreme Court Cites Established Precedent in Rejecting Asbestos Civil Conspiracy Claims