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).

Continue Reading Toxic Tort Monitor: District Court of New Jersey Finds Specific Jurisdiction Lacking Based on Successor Liability Theory

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. Continue Reading Toxic Tort Monitor: A “Substantial Factor” in Bringing About Change? Illinois’ McKinney Appellate Decision Raises Plaintiff Burdens for Duty and Causation

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. Continue Reading Toxic Tort Monitor: Illinois Supreme Court Set to Rule on Asbestos Civil Conspiracy Claim

Husch Blackwell is pleased to announce that this month marks the five-year anniversary of the opening of its office in the Cortex Innovation Community, the 200-acre innovation district located in St. Louis, Missouri and founded in 2002.

Husch Blackwell Cortex attorneys
Attorneys Mary Kate Mullen and Aleks Rushing celebrate 5 years at Cortex by highlighting startup clients. Photo courtesy of Aleks Rushing

Since opening the office in 2014, Husch Blackwell has played a key role in assisting many of the emerging-growth companies that have called Cortex home. The firm has staffed the Cortex office with a variety of lawyers on both a permanent and rotating basis and has provided legal advice ranging from intellectual property, employment law and immigration to corporate law, financing and mergers & acquisitions.

The firm celebrated its five-year anniversary at Cortex with a client event on August 21. More information about Husch Blackwell’s 5 years in Cortex can be found here. For additional information, please contact the firm’s Chief Growth Office, Dean Boeschen.

Most startups initially focus on incorporation, funding, and protecting their intellectual property, which is logical and practical! While these are all important and necessary, startups should also ensure that they are protecting their new startup from legal actions such as a lawsuit – the dreaded “L” word. A lawsuit is the official court process in which two or more parties seek to resolve a dispute. A legal battle can be lengthy, expensive, and create bad publicity. Startups are experiencing a rise in litigation and below we will focus on three growing risks to startups and provide practical steps to prevent these types of lawsuits.

Being threatened with a lawsuit is always frightening and unsettling but sometimes can be avoided. For example, in a sole proprietorship, both the company and owner could be liable for the damages. Structuring a startup as a corporation or a limited liability company could help reduce owner liability. Generally speaking, the creditors of a business also cannot succeed against the founders and other investors of corporations and LLCs for unpaid debts because they are sheltered by the corporate status. Continue Reading An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure: Why Startups Should Consider Litigation Risk

Even with the rapid growth of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) or drones, one of the FAA’s primary rules is that the pilot must maintain visual line of sight with the unmanned aircraft at all times. When waivers were granted for “extended line of sight” operations, visual observers on the ground were still required. Those operational constraints are about to change.

Collaborative projects between private industry and the Universities of Alaska-Fairbanks and Hawaii are transforming dreams into reality for the unmanned aircraft community. These technological accomplishments are laying the foundations to provide vital services to rural and outlying communities through long-distance search and rescue, surveying and telecommunications platforms mounted onboard solar powered drones.

Continue Reading Important Milestones Are Being Met in Alaska and Hawaii for Unmanned Aircraft Systems

As of October 5, 2019, the United States Patent and Trademark Office is going completely online!

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has made it official. Starting October 5, 2019, electronic filing of trademark submissions through the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) will be mandatory, with limited exceptions (i.e., paper and fax submissions will no longer be accepted). By having end-to-end electronic processing of trademark applications and registrations, the USPTO hopes to be able to process submissions faster and with fewer errors. Accordingly, those currently without access to the Internet or an email address will need to prepare for this new rule change (several companies like Google and Yahoo offer free email accounts, and local libraries are always a good place to get free Internet access). Continue Reading The USPTO is Taking Filings Online

Husch Blackwell’s Caroline Chicoine is the current Vice Chair of the International Trademark Association’s (INTA) Impact Studies committee. Recently, she helped the committee finish the term strong with two important studies regarding Generation Z and the economic impact of trademark-intensive industries in Latin America.

Do Gen Zers make up a big part of your customer base? Gen Zers will make up the largest group of consumers worldwide by 2020. These consumers were born between 1995 and 2010 and are currently between 18 and 23 years of age. If you find your customer base consists of Gen Zers, the International Trademark Association’s Impact Studies committee’s recent study, titled “Gen Z Insights: Brands and Counterfeit Products” is a must-read. The multi-country study investigates the behavior of Gen Zers when it comes to their relationship with brands and attitudes toward counterfeit products. A copy of the Comprehensive Global Report covering ten (10) countries around the world, as well as reports for each country can be found here. For a comprehensive global infographic summarizing the results of the study, see here. Continue Reading Insight from INTA’s Gen Z Study Brings Expanded Reach for Campaign on Counterfeit Goods

The answer is “Yes” if your start-up has progressed far enough along to have hired six (6) employees. The Missouri Human Rights Act (“MHRA”) makes it illegal to discriminate in any aspect of employment, including tangible employment actions, because of an individual’s race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, disability or age (between the ages of 40 through 69).  Under the MHRA, an employer is “a person engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has six or more employees for each working day in each of twenty or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.”  This means as your startup succeeds in growing, you must be aware of the 6-employee rule and the impact on your business if you violate the MHRA.  Continue Reading Is My Startup Subject to the “Me Too” Movement in Missouri?

Husch Blackwell’s Aleks Rushing has been named to the St. Louis Business Journal’s 2019 30 Under 30 class. The annual award series honors “future leaders of the region and the local business community.” Aleks serves as legal counsel for colleges, universities and schools. On behalf of her clients, she conducts investigations, handles litigation and provides guidance on compliance issues arising from a wide range of civil rights and educational funding matters. In less than four years, Aleks has presented at over 60 national and statewide conferences, seminars, webinars and client trainings.

Aleks also serves as a member of the leadership board and helps manage business operations for Husch Blackwell’s Cortex office. Aleks cites the Cortex district as one of the things St. Louis does right: “The Cortex district in St. Louis is a hub for innovation and that is certainly an area where St. Louis is doing something right […] The people in the Cortex Innovation Community partner across all industries to find tailored and unique ways to solve everyday problems.” Aleks has focused many of her efforts in her practice and at the Cortex office in those partnerships and collaboration. She has helped serve as legal counsel for education clients in the Cortex district and also hosts the annual St. Louis Higher Education Seminar in the district.