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

Multiple state governors have issued orders for their residents to shelter at home and for non-essential businesses to close. We expect this to occur in most other states, if not all, in the near term. Although the directives vary from state to state, there is a focus on keeping “essential” businesses and functions operational. How do we know what businesses and services are “essential”?

That question is likely to be up for significant debate; however, guidance has been offered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).  Christopher Krebs, Director of CISA, announced in a memorandum that CISA, in collaboration with other federal agencies and the private sector, have developed an initial list of “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers.” This list is designed to assist state, local and tribal officials as they work to protect their communities, while ensuring continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security.  Continue Reading As Shelter-in-Place Orders Spread, What Businesses are Essential?

Due to its suddenness and severity, overnight the COVID-19 outbreak has rearranged the priorities of corporate legal departments. Things that were of top-of-list importance yesterday have likely been replaced by action items that were inconceivable just a few weeks ago. Additionally, the “all-hands-on-deck” approach to managing the crisis is likely to last for some time and perhaps longer than any of us could have imagined. There are going to be many legal issues of great strategic importance that simply won’t receive the attention they require; likewise, there will be day-to-day issues that could also be overlooked. Environmental monitoring and reporting requirements could be among those. Continue Reading Environmental Compliance During COVID-19 Business Disruption

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued a statement regarding the Commission’s efforts during the COVID-19 crisis. Though short, the statement makes clear that the CPSC is working to maximize technology to continue its work while also encouraging businesses to continue to report potentially unsafe products. The CPSC stated that it is relying on “teleworking to the maximum extent possible in conjunction with staff whose onsite presence is necessary to perform their duties.” Accordingly, businesses may want to check with the CPSC representative with whom they are working to determine how that might affect accessibility and/or work hours. Importantly, the CPSC signaled that there is no relaxing of reporting requirements for businesses as a result of COVID-19 by stating “Companies are reminded of their statutory obligation to report under Section 15(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act.”

Companies should review compliance programs to address any issues raised by COVID-19 so that reporting can be done in a timely matter. Specifically, companies should review how product complaints and other quality issues will be received, processed and considered in light of a work force that may be working remotely in response to the virus.

Part of any good cybersecurity program rests on spreading good habits and inculcating employees with best practices around handling data and using network resources. In this cybersecurity is as much a behavioral challenge as it as a technological one. That’s precisely why the recent coronavirus outbreak, or COVID-19, is so potentially harmful to a company’s cybersecurity efforts.

Already, we have seen a large number of event cancellations and the shuttering of offices around the world as organizations attempt to balance public health concerns with business as usual. Many companies are actively encouraging their employees to work from home if possible. For organizations that do this routinely, coronavirus-related cybersecurity issues will be less of a concern; however, for a great many businesses, working remotely is not the norm, and it will necessarily disrupt work patterns and processes.

Continue Reading Maintaining Privacy and Cybersecurity Vigilance during the Coronavirus Outbreak

As blockchain grows in popularity, people continue to look for practical ways to incorporate the technology into their organizations. Some view blockchain as a silver bullet that can conquer any problem. Others view blockchain as a more complicated method for essentially implementing a database, thus offering little more than a solution looking for a problem. So, should your organization use blockchain technology?

Continue Reading Husch Blackwell’s Blockchain Basics – Part 2: Should You Use Blockchain Technology?

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

On the heels of Johnson & Johnson’s latest defense verdict in a talc ovarian cancer case in St. Louis City in December 2019 – the fourth consecutive verdict in its favor – comes another study that supports Johnson & Johnson’s long held position. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the article entitled Association of Powder Use in the Genital Area With Risk of Ovarian Cancer found no statistically significant association between the use of powder in the genital area and incident ovarian cancer.

Continue Reading A Scientific Update: Ovarian Cancer and “Tainted Talc”

New Jersey based pharmaceutical, medical and consumer goods giant Johnson & Johnson has found itself at the center of national litigation conversation over the last few years due to explosive verdicts rendered against it over allegations that its talcum powder causes ovarian cancer and asbestos-related respiratory illnesses. In 2016 and 2017, Johnson & Johnson saw four verdicts in St. Louis ovarian cancer cases alone, with verdicts rendered in favor of the female plaintiffs of approximately $55 million, $70 million, $72 million and $110 million. Perhaps most shocking, however, was a $4.69 billion verdict obtained by twenty-two (22) different women suffering from ovarian cancer. In addition to $550 million in compensatory damages, the jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $4.14 billion in punitive damages. Despite the trial itself exceeding six weeks, the St. Louis jurors reportedly reached their conclusion and verdict in less than one day. A Los Angeles jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a California woman $417 million in damages in 2017, including $347 million in punitive damages.

Continue Reading Summary of 2019 Talc Verdicts

Recently, three asbestos cases, Lege, Chabaud, and Gaddy, have produced significant verdicts in Louisiana. Interestingly, Chabaud, a case of disputed asbestosis, produced the largest reported award for an asbestos personal injury claim in Louisiana history. Below is a brief summary of each of these matters.

Continue Reading Toxic Tort Monitor: Three Louisiana Juries Award Significant Verdicts in Asbestos Exposure Cases