Client Alert
February 18, 2015

 

Asbestos Update  


The rise in the number of asbestos filings in Madison County
, Illinois during 2012 and 2013, primarily due to an influx of lung cancer cases, appears to be over. The overall number of asbestos cases filed in Madison County in 2014 dropped by several hundred in comparison to previous years, a trend that we hope will continue.  Nevertheless, Madison County continues to be one of the primary venues for filing asbestos-related claims in the United States due to its streamlined trial docket procedure.

 

Missouri's Supreme Court is now ranked as the sixth worst venue by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA), in part due to striking limits on punitive damages and the procedure for selecting judges. Because of its proximity to Madison County and the loose venue rules in Missouri, the City of St. Louis continues to see a significant amount of mesothelioma and alleged asbestos-related lung cancer suits.  Several recent asbestos trials in the City of St. Louis have returned multi-million verdicts in favor of the plaintiff.

 

 

Case Notes

 

Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim

Boggs v. American Optical Co., No. 4:14-CV-1434-CEJ, 2015 WL 300509 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 22, 2015)

  • Plaintiff sued thirty-two defendants alleging asbestos exposure. The action was removed from Missouri state court.  Over plaintiff's twenty-seven-year career, he had worked as a fireman in the Navy, a welder in California, a truck driver in Nebraska and Nevada, and a welder in Oklahoma.  He also did automotive repairs and home repairs in Oklahoma. 
  • Plaintiff's complaint provided no details about which defendants caused his exposure, in what years, in what locations, or through which products.  Rather, the complaint suggested that every defendant caused plaintiff's asbestos exposure.
  • The Court found that based on the few facts alleged in the complaint, it was not plausible that all thirty-two defendants caused plaintiff to be exposed to asbestos from two dozen kinds of products over a twenty-seven year period in five different geographical locations.  Specifically, a complaint which lumps all defendants together and does not sufficiently allege who did what to whom, fails to state a claim for relief.
  • The Court granted defendants' motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim.

 

Choice of Law

Denton v. Universal Am-Can, Ltd., 2015 IL App (1st) 132905.

  • Personal injury action for vehicular accident that occurred on an interstate highway in Indiana.
  • Circuit court denied defendants' choice-of-law motion for application of Indiana law and ruled that Illinois law applied.
  • Appellate Court reversed, concluding that Indiana law governed the liability and damages issues in the case.
  • Choice-of-law analysis only required when a difference in the law will affect the outcome of a case.
  • Illinois has adopted the most significant relationship test.

 

Duty to Defend

Illinois Tool Works, Inc. v. Travelers Casualty and Surety Co., 2015 IL App (1st) 132350.

  • Defendants had a duty to defend plaintiffs in a multitude of cases brought by individuals who were allegedly injured as a result of exposure to harmful materials (asbestos) while welding or engaging in other building or maintenance activities.
  • Insurers argued that they were not liable because the last policy had expired before plaintiff entered the welding product market.
  • An insurer's refusal to defend an insured is justified only if it is clear from the face of the complaint that the allegations fail to state facts which bring the cause within or potentially within coverage.
  • When the complaint alleges facts within or potentially within the policy's coverage, the insurer's duty to defend arises even if the allegations are groundless, false, or fraudulent.
  • Summary judgment for plaintiffs.

 

New Bills Signed Into Law - Effective June 1, 2015

  • Public Act 098-1131 (formerly Senate Bill 2221) eliminates claims for asbestos-related injury from the construction statute of repose.
  • Public Act 098-1132  (formerly Senate Bill 3075) reduces the number of jurors in civil trials from 12 to 6.

 

Recent Articles Regarding Asbestos Claims

(Madison-St. Clair County Record)

  • Madison County named 5th worst judicial hellhole for 2014, "still home to more asbestos litigation than any other jurisdiction in the country"; Missouri Supreme Court named 6th worst, click here for more.
  • Asbestos filings in Madison County down 20 percent from previous year, 1300 cases filed in 2014 compared to 1678 in 2013, click here for more.
  • Only two of 207 asbestos claims set for trial this week are on behalf of Madison County plaintiffs, click here for more.
Contact the Environmental/Toxic Tort Defense Group 
with any questions:

Belleville, IL and St. Louis, MO

A.J. Bronsky
Principal
(314) 242-5324

Tucker Blaser
Senior Associate
(618) 355-5138
Beth Kamp Veath
Principal
(618) 355-5103

 

Brown & James, P.C. is a Midwest regional law firm with more than 100 attorneys representing companies in litigation, appeals and insurance coverage matters.
www.brownjames.com

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