In Kardos v. Armstrong Pumps Inc. et al., 2019 PA Super 324, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently ruled that where a party is given the opportunity to cross-examine a witness who later becomes unavailable due to his death, such testimony meets the hearsay exception and is admissible evidence.

Decedent Nicholas Kardos was diagnosed with mesothelioma in January 2016. On March 10, 2016, Mr. Kardos filed a lawsuit against numerous manufacturers, suppliers, and users of asbestos products. In September 2016, Mr. Kardos executed an affidavit related to his work history and exposures to asbestos, after a site visit of a prior worksite. In October 2016, Mr. Kardos was deposed over three days, including cross-examination by defendants regarding his work history and exposures to asbestos containing products. Mr. Kardos passed away on November 3, 2016, before any party re-noticed the deposition.


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In a consolidated appeal, the Georgia Court of Appeals recently looked at the proximate cause standard for asbestos cases in Davis v. John Crane. 2019 WL 5558711 (Ga. Ct. App. Oct. 29, 2019). In so doing, the appellate court declined to extend the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Air and Liquid Systems Corp. v. Devries to cases outside of a maritime tort context. While the Davis Court is not the first to analyze the DeVries decision, it is one of the first to hold that the case is exclusively limited to maritime torts.

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Recently, a Missouri Court of Appeals vacated a trial court’s award of $110 million in an ovarian cancer talc case, Slemp v. Johnson & Johnson, ED 106190 (Mo. Ct. App. Oct. 15, 2019). This is the third talc verdict handed down by a St. Louis jury overturned on appeal based on lack of personal jurisdiction in light of the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, San Francisco County, 137 S. Ct. 1773, 198 L. Ed. 2d 395 (2017) (“BMS”).

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In August of 2019, following a seven-week bench trial, Judge Thad Balkman of Oklahoma’s Cleveland County District Court found biotech and healthcare company Johnson & Johnson responsible for sparking the state’s opioid epidemic through use of “disingenuous marketing schemes” used to drive the sale of its prescription painkillers. This ruling, which ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay the state of Oklahoma $572 million dollars in damages, resulted in the first ever successful lawsuit brought by the state against a defendant drug manufacturer stemming from a sole cause of action: public nuisance.

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Recently, the Missouri legislature passed Senate Bill 224 outlining a brand new set of discovery rules for Missouri state-court cases. These new rules represent a comprehensive revision to the existing rules and make the Missouri rules align significantly with those of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Under the Missouri constitution, the statute took effect on August 28, 2019 overriding the existing rules. However, the Missouri Supreme Court cannot promulgate a new rule with less than six months’ notice, which means that the new rule would not formally be in effect before March or April of 2020. Furthermore, the Supreme Court’s Rules Committee was recently advised that the Supreme Court has not updated its website to reflect the changes made in SB 224.

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Last year, a St. Louis city jury sent shock waves across the world, awarding 22 plaintiffs nearly $5 billion in compensatory and punitive damages in a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson over claims its asbestos-contaminated talcum powder caused ovarian cancer in women who used the company’s product for years in the case of Ingham v. Johnson & Johnson, No. 1522-CC10417 (Mo. Cir. Ct. St. Louis City July 12, 2018). Prior to trial, Imerys Talc America Inc., a co-defendant supplier of talc to Johnson & Johnson, settled plaintiffs’ claims for at least $5 million.[1]

While previous ovarian cancer trials hinged on arguments that talc itself is carcinogenic, plaintiffs in Ingham argued their cancer was caused by asbestos particles mixed in with the talc. The impact of this verdict and similar previous decisions across the country has been damaging enough to prompt talc supplier Imerys Talc America Inc., to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing a lack of financial clout to defend lawsuits alleging that Imerys’ talc caused ovarian cancer or asbestos-related mesothelioma.[2]
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The Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Sullivan v. A. W. Chesterton, Inc., et al., No. 18-3622 (E.D. Pa. June 6, 2019), grappled with the constitutionality of the Pennsylvania statutes, 15 Pa.C.S. § 411 and 42 Pa.C.S. § 5301, (the “PA Statutory Scheme”) requiring out-of-state businesses to register in the state, which in turn functions as consent to general jurisdiction. This issue became salient only in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117 (2014) (holding corporation is “at home” only where it is incorporated or maintains its principal place of business). The Eastern District held that the PA Statutory Scheme requiring out-of-state corporations to register before they conduct business in the state and thereby consent to general jurisdiction in Pennsylvania offends the Due Process Clause and is unconstitutional.
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In Thomas-Fish v. Aetna Steel Prod. Corp., plaintiff Helen Thomas-Fish alleged her husband Robert Fish had died from mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos through his work at a shipbuilding yard in New Jersey in 1960. No. 17-CV-10648 RMB/KMW, 2019 WL 2354555, at *1 (D.N.J. June 4, 2019).  Plaintiff brought a wrongful death claim against various defendants including Sonic Industries (“Sonic”), an alleged joiner contractor that installed asbestos-containing paneling during shipbuilding. Sonic was incorporated in California in 1966, six years after the alleged exposure in this case. In addition, Sonic maintained its principal place of business in Connecticut. Accordingly, Sonic was not subject to general jurisdiction in the state of New Jersey. Instead, Plaintiff asserted that Sonic was subject to specific jurisdiction in New Jersey through an unnamed predecessor entity under a successor liability theory. Defendant Sonic filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2).

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On September 5, 2018, the Appellate Court for the Fourth District of Illinois introduced heightened standards for plaintiffs to establish duty and causation in asbestos litigation through its reversal of a McLean County trial court’s decision denying a defendant’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. McKinney v. Hobart Bros. Co., 2018 IL App (4th) 170333, appeal denied, 116 N.E.3d 948 (Ill. 2019). In McKinney, the plaintiff sued Defendant Hobart Brothers Company (“Hobart”) alleging his eight-month workplace exposure to Hobart’s asbestos-containing welding rods in 1962 and 1963 caused his mesothelioma. The welding rods at issue allegedly contained asbestos fibers that were encapsulated. The plaintiff also alleged exposure to asbestos-containing automotive products that occurred during the course of his forty-year mechanic career. In reversing the trial judgment, the McKinney Court addressed three issues of expert testimony admissibility under Rule 213 and ultimately tightened the reins on exposure claims involving encapsulated asbestos fibers by requiring industry knowledge of harm for the manufacturer’s product at issue before imposing a duty and ushering in the “substantial factor” test for causation.
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The Illinois Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in Jones v. Pneumo Abex LLC, Nos. 123895, 124002 cons. (Ill. 2019), where Plaintiffs, John and Deborah Jones, sued brake lining company Pneumo Abex (“Abex”) and glass bottle maker Owens-Illinois (“O-I”) for injuries John Jones allegedly suffered due to asbestos exposure during his construction career. Although Jones never worked for Defendants and never used or was exposed to any product of Defendants, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants entered into a civil conspiracy with the asbestos industry at large including Johns-Manville, an insulation and roofing materials manufacturer, to conceal the harmful health effects of asbestos exposure. In their complaint, Plaintiffs relied solely on circumstantial evidence to support their allegations of a conspiratorial agreement, including. (1) an Abex funded study on asbestos dust with Saranac Laboratory (the “Saranac report”) where a mice study revealing tumors was omitted from the published report; (2) a 1953 Sales Agreement between O-I and Owens Corning Fiberglas Corp. (“OCF”) for the sale of Kaylo insulation; (3) “non-toxic” ads that were issued by O-I and later by OCF; (4) O-I’s sharing of two asbestos health articles from 1941, (5) a unilaterally sponsored O-I study of Kaylo insulation involving exposure to lab animals; and (6) overlapping directors and stock ownership of O-I in OCF.
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