Category Archives: Litigation

Last Of 4 UPMC Mold Outbreak Patients Dies

By Christine D’Antonio, http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com

He was the only survivor of a mold outbreak inside UPMC hospitals.

However, the 70-year-old man died this weekend.

Before his death, he and his family filed a lawsuit against UPMC alleging medical negligence.

Che Duvall initially went to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in August of 2015 to receive a double lung transplant. A month later, he was diagnosed with the infection and received treatment up until Saturday, when he was pronounced dead. Read more

Michigan’s largest asbestos release nets probation for Kalamazoo woman

By Rex Hall Jr., http://www.mlive.com/

Judges_GavelA Kalamazoo woman who was behind a salvage operation that federal prosecutors say led to the largest release of toxic asbestos in the state’s history will spend the next three years on probation, according to court documents.

In February, LuAnne LaBrie, formerly known as LuAnne McClain, pleaded guilty to failing to notify federal or state authorities that asbestos material would be stripped and removed at the former Consumers Energy power plant in Comstock Township.

In March, LaBrie also pleaded guilty in federal court to misdemeanor charges of failing to timely file a tax return in 2011 and 2012 on income of more than $1.75 million in proceeds from the salvage job.

LaBrie’s two co-defendants, Cory Hammond, of Hastings, and Robert “Mike” White,” of Kalamazoo, who supervised the salvaging of scrap metal at the power plant, pleaded guilty in February to failing to adequately wet asbestos material during the operation. Read more

Springfield property manager gets probation for forging lead paint compliance letters

By Buffy Spencer, http://www.masslive.com/

Judges_GavelDespite the state asking for a six month jail sentence, a judge sentenced a property manager to five years probation after he admitted falsifying two lead inspection reports.

Dwayne Johnson, 47, was sentenced Wednesday by Hampden Superior CourtJudge C. Jeffrey Kinder.

David M. Hodge, Johnson’s lawyer, had asked for a sentence of three years probation saying Johnson is a hard worker who should be allowed to continue with his life.

Kinder said if Johnson goes three years without any probation violations the probation can end then.

The case was prosecuted by the state Attorney General’s office.

Assistant Attorney General Tasnin R. Chowdhury told Kinder that in November 2011 Johnson was managing a property at 119 Wilbraham Road. He admitted Wednesday to falsifying a letter of lead paint compliance.

Chowdhury said in 2013 Johnson falsified a letter of lead paint compliance for a property he was managing at 23 Rochelle St. The letters were submitted to HAPHousing so tenants could move in with government funded assistance payments.

The attorney general’s office began an investigation on December 2013 after it was referred by the state Department of Public Health’s Child Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. Read more

Lead-poisoning settlement deals draw scrutiny, calls for reform

By Timothy B. Wheeler and John Fritze, http://www.baltimoresun.com/

Maryland lawmakers vowed Thursday to investigate and clamp down on companies that “buy” lawsuit settlements after learning that hundreds of lead-poisoning victims in Baltimore had signed away their court-approved rights to long-term financial support in return for quick cash worth only a fraction of what they were due.

Attorney General Brian E. Frosh said his office would work to strengthen Maryland’s law regulating purchases of so-called “structured settlements” when the General Assemblymeets in January. But he also pledged to investigate the companies involved and go after them if his staff determines they broke the law as it stands now.

“We want to be able to take action to protect people from this kind of scam and see if we can help the folks that have already been victimized,” Frosh said.

State legislators and members of Maryland’s congressional delegation joined in expressing dismay and pledging change in reaction to a Washington Post report this week on companies that struck deals with lead-poisoning victims to swap guaranteed regular payments over years for much smaller one-time payouts.

One lead-poisoning victim has filed a lawsuit in Baltimore Circuit Court saying she had been misled into agreeing to such a deal.

Baltimore lawyer Saul Kerpelman said he brought the case because he considers such settlement transfers “obscene.” Kerpelman, who’s represented thousands of families in lead-poisoning lawsuits, said the companies are undoing financial arrangements specifically crafted to give victims a long-term stream of income, rather than a big one-time payout. Read more

N.J. man sentenced for lying about church asbestos removal

By Matt Gray, NJ.com

Judges_GavelA Voorhees man was sentenced to one year and a day in prison Tuesday for claiming he had removed asbestos from a former church when he never actually did the work, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Ronen Bakshi, 54, submitted false documents to the City of Philadelphia’s Air Management Services office in connection with a project to remove asbestos-containing material from a former church at 1133 Spring Garden St.

Bakshi billed the non-profit owner of the property for work he never performed, authorities said. Read more

Jury awards Oklahoma man $6 million in asbestos lawsuit

By Richard Mize, http://newsok.com/

michealGalierA Moore man who sued more than a dozen companies for what he described as decades of negligent workplace exposure to asbestos prevailed against two of them for a judgment of $6 million in a jury trial in Oklahoma County District Court.

Michael D. Galier, 51, filed the product liability lawsuit in 2012 after he was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. A jury found for him in his claims against Murco Wall Products of Fort Worth, Texas, and Welco Manufacturing Co. of North Kansas City, Mo.

The jury found a third defendant, Red Devil Inc. in Tulsa, not liable. Judge Bryan C. Dixon dismissed Oklahoma City’s M-D Building Products Inc., formerly Macklanburg-Duncan, from the suit last year but did not bar Galier from filing another suit on the same claims.

Jurors awarded no punitive damages in the case, which was decided May 18.

Galier, who owns and maintains rent houses, referred questions to attorney Jessica Dean of the Dallas law firm Dean Omar Branham.

Dean said asbestos lawsuits rarely go to a verdict. Her response to the success of this rare case?

“Grateful,” Dean said. “The jury was thoughtful and attentive in a case that lasted over two weeks. The company lawyers had more lawyers and resources and argued everything to muddy the issues. We focused on the central issue: Mike worked in home construction for years where these companies supplied asbestos products and did so when they were fully aware that those using the products and their families were at real risk of dying from cancer.” Read more

Jury Awards Woman $13 Million for Asbestos Exposure

By Brian Melley, Associated Press

talcum powderA Los Angeles jury awarded $13 million to a 73-year-old woman who contracted a deadly disease from using asbestos-containing talcum powder manufactured by Colgate-Palmolive Co.

Jurors deliberated for two hours Tuesday before finding that New York-based Colgate was 95 percent responsible for Judith Winkel’s mesothelioma, a fatal lung disease, according to her lawyers. The verdict included $1.4 million in damages for her husband.

Winkel’s lawyers said she got the rare cancer from using Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder.

“This is an example of the legal system exposing what a company should have been honest about 50 years ago,” attorney Chris Panatier said. “Judith Winkel only wanted a jury to hear the truth about this product and hopefully to help others who are similarly exposed.”

While billions of dollars have been paid in verdicts and settlements to people sickened by exposure to asbestos, it’s often in cases related to use of the mineral in construction materials or insulation. Tiny fibers of the carcinogen can be breathed in and lodge in the lungs, leading to fatal illnesses such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

The Food and Drug Administration conducted a study more than five years ago that found no asbestos in cosmetics it tested containing talcum powder. However, the agency said there’s been concern about asbestos contamination in talc since the 1970s. Some studies have shown a possible association between use of talc powders and ovarian cancer but have not conclusively linked the two, the agency said. Read more

New York’s Asbestos Court Mulls Changes After Sheldon Silver Scandal

By Daniel Fisher, http://www.forbes.com/

Sheldon SilverNew York’s special court system for hearing asbestos cases will be on trial Thursday as defense lawyers make their case for reforms in the wake of former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s indictment on allegations he accepted millions of dollars in kickbacks from one of the most prominent asbestos plaintiff firms in the state.

Administrative Judge Sherry Klein Heitler, who oversaw changes that defense lawyers say made it easier for plaintiffs to win cases in NYCAL courts and specifically benefitted Weitz & Luxenberg, the law firm that allegedly paid Silver, a part-time employee, more than $5 million for client referrals from a cancer physician who secretly received money from a state fund Silver controlled.

Weitz & Luxenberg and Silver have both denied wrongdoing. Defense lawyers have long complained that Weitz & Luxenberg had special privileges at NYCAL under Heitler, however. As the firm with the largest number of asbestos cases on the docket, defense lawyers say, Weitz & Luxenberg was able to cherry-pick which cases went to trial and got first shot at juries in a court system overloaded with more than 10,000 asbestos lawsuits. Read more

‘Any exposure’ theory rejected in asbestos lung cancer case

By HEATHER ISRINGHAUSEN GVILLO, http://legalnewsline.com/

An Illinois federal judge has barred a plaintiff alleging asbestos-induced lung cancer from relying on the any exposure theory at trial.

Judge John Z. Lee delivered the Dec. 22 opinion in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, rejecting the any exposure theory.

Everett McKinley Dirksen United States Courthouse in Chicago

Defendants Crane Co., ExxonMobil Oil Corporation, Owens-Illinois, Inc., and Marley-Wylain Company requested the court to exclude the any exposure theory and to bar plaintiff Charles Krik from calling certain witnesses at trial who plan on relying on the any exposure theory in their testimonies.

Lee explained that the any exposure theory “posits that any exposure to asbestos fibers whatsoever constitutes an underlying cause of injury to the individual exposed.”

Krik claims he developed lung cancer as a result of asbestos exposure and sought to present testimony from experts Dr. Arthur Frank, Dr. Arnold Brody and Frank Parker, who intended to testify that each and every asbestos exposure caused the claimant’s lung cancer.

While the court denied the defendants’ motion to bar certain witnesses, Lee granted their request to exclude the any exposure theory. He concluded that Krik failed to establish that the any exposure theory is sufficiently reliable to warrant admission.

The court applied the Daubert factors when determining the issue of asbestos injury causation.

Applying the Daubert factors, the defendants argued that the any exposure theory is speculative and is not scientifically reliable because it ignores a “fundamental principle of toxicology – that the ‘dose makes the poison.’”

They added that the any exposure theory “allows a plaintiff to skirt this fundamental principle by wholly bypassing the dosage requirement.”

Krik, on the other hand, claimed the methodology used in the any exposure theory was proper.

He argued that Illinois law does not require plaintiffs to quantify their individual exposure levels in order to establish causation.

Lee wrote that even though Krik and his experts have acknowledged that asbestos-induced lung cancer is a dose-responsive disease, the plaintiff still intended to have his experts testify that any exposure to asbestos, regardless of dosage, is sufficient to cause an asbestos related disease.

Lee also notes that Krik failed to offer any expert testimony explaining how much asbestos exposure he actually experienced and whether the dosage was even sufficient enough to cause his disease.

“Krik’s argument that a single exposure or a de minimis exposure satisfies the substantial contributing factor test under Illinois law incorrectly states the controlling law: it is not that de minimis exposure is sufficient, but that more than de minimis exposure is required to prove causation,” he wrote. “Krik’s argument, therefore, is unavailing.”

Instead, the claimant relied on the any exposure theory to prove causation for lung cancer, a disease with many causes ranging from asbestos exposure to cigarette smoke.

Furthermore, the any exposure theory is inadmissible because Krik’s experts failed to base their opinions on facts specific to this case, the judge ruled. Read more

Vacaville company faces fine over lead paint in Bay Area homes

By Robert Digitale, The Press Democrat

leadpaintVacaville-based Blue Mountain Air is facing a $51,000 fine for failing to follow federal rules in the treatment and removal of lead-based paint during its renovation of four Bay Area homes, the U.S. Environmental Protection announced Wednesday.

The company, a subsidiary of Blue Mountain Inc., failed to obtain required EPA certification before the renovations, and also failed to keep required records and to ensure the project’s workers were certified to safely remove lead-based paint, the agency said.

The four homes, all foreclosures, were renovated in 2011 and 2012 in Santa Rosa, Napa and El Sobrante. Read more