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Company asks court to vacate record asbestos award

This spring has been a busy one for mesothelioma attorneys across the United States, with juries in Illinois and throughout the country awarding record-setting damages amounts to plaintiffs who are suffering from mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses. After a Mississippi jury awarded the highest-ever damage award to a plaintiff suffering from asbestosis, the defendant company has filed an appeal, claiming that the judge has a conflict of interest which should have disqualified him from presiding over the case.

In the early part of the century, mesothelioma lawsuits came under fire from federal lawmakers when Congress attempted to pass legislation that would have banned asbestos-related lawsuits from U.S. courts completely. Although that law ultimately failed, it convinced many mesothelioma attorneys to back off, and very few asbestos lawsuits were filed during the last decade.

However, as more is learned about mesothelioma and its tragic effects, lawsuits are once again on the rise. This spring saw several substantial asbestos verdicts, such as a $90 million award by an Illinois jury to a former pipefitter with mesothelioma and a $25 million award by a Virginia jury to a ship repair supervisor who also has the disease. But the largest award came with a $322 million verdict in Mississippi in a case filed by a plaintiff with asbestosis against Union Carbide and Chevron Phillips Chemical.

As was expected, Union Carbide is fighting back against the verdict. The company recently filed a motion asking the judge to vacate the judgment and step down from the case on its retrial. According to the motion, the judge is ineligible to hear the case because his father has been a plaintiff in two other asbestos lawsuits, one of which was resolved in a settlement with Union Carbide.

The judge has not yet responded to the motion, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Source: Thomson Reuters News and Insight, "Claim of conflict in Union Carbide case," 18 May 2011

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