On March 28, 2022, the Supreme Court of Delaware settled a 15-year battle between asbestos plaintiffs and defendants by affirming the burden-shifting framework provided in a 2006 Superior Court decision. This decision affirms once and for all that where a company manufactured
Continue Reading The Impact of Droz on Evidentiary Standards in Delaware

We previously blogged on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in Mallory v. Norfolk S. R.R. Co., Civ. A. No. 3 EAP 2021, Slip. Op. J-49-2021 (Pa. Dec. 22, 2021),  which put an end to general jurisdiction based solely on registration to do business in the Commonwealth.  Since the issuance of this landscape-shifting decision, courts in the Commonwealth have seen a flurry of ”Mallory motions” coming in all shapes and sizes. So far, plaintiff’s response has been uniform – Mallorys holding is limited and does not apply to defendants whose dealings are entirely “interstate” and who have no “footprint” in the Commonwealth. This attempt to minimize the impact of Mallory was recently rejected by the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in Emery v. U.S. Steel Corp. giving a glimpse of hope to foreign defendants haled to court in Pennsylvania.

Continue Reading Mallory enforced by Philadelphia Court – There Is No General Jurisdiction Based on Registration to Do Business

The American Tort Reform Foundation (ATR) published its 2021-2022 Judicial Hellholes Executive Summary. The report highlights the most prominent jurisdictions across the United States known for allowing innovate lawsuits, welcoming litigation tourism, and expanding civil liability.

The 2021-2022 Judicial Hellholes

The ATR’s top judicial hellholes are:

(1) California. “The Golden State” is back in the No. 1 Judicial Hellhole spot due to appellate courts holding e-commerce companies strictly liable for products sold on their sites, “baseless” Prop-65 lawsuits, “frivolous” Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) and American with Disabilities Act (ADA) claims, and the AG promoting an “expansive view” of public nuisance law.

(2) New York. “The Empire State” is right behind California for having one of the worst legal climates in the nation. The ATR notes this is due to New York’s unmatched number of “no-injury” class actions, ADA lawsuits, and immense asbestos litigation docket.
Continue Reading Things Are Heating Up: The Top “Judicial Hellholes” For 2021-2022

On December 22, 2021, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania issued a decision in Mallory v. Norfolk S. R.R. Co., Civ. A. No. 3 EAP 2021, Slip. Op. J-49-2021, at 33, 44 (Pa. Dec. 22, 2021) that is sure to become the pillar of jurisdictional challenges going forward. The Court unanimously held that general jurisdiction does not exist solely on the basis of a company’s registration to do business in Pennsylvania.
Continue Reading Pennsylvania Supreme Court Puts An End to Consent By Registration Theory of General Personal Jurisdiction

On November 9, 2021, the Oklahoma Supreme Court set aside a $465 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson (J&J) in State ex rel. Hunter v. Johnson & Johnson, 2021 OK 54. In 2017, the State of Oklahoma sued three opioid manufacturers, including J&J, alleging the companies deceptively marketed opioids in the state. At trial, only J&J and the claim of public nuisance remained. At the end of a 33-day bench trial, the district court ordered J&J to pay $572 million, representing funding for one year of Oklahoma’s opioid abatement plan. Our previous report on the district court award can be found here. Due to a calculation error in the original award, the district court award was subsequently reduced to $465 million. According to the district court, J&J was liable under Oklahoma’s public nuisance statute for conducting false, misleading, and dangerous marketing campaigns about prescription opioids.

Continue Reading Oklahoma Supreme Court Sets Aside $465 Million Public Nuisance Opioid Verdict

The Iowa Court of Appeals recently affirmed summary judgment for both a premises owner and an installer of asbestos products pursuant to Iowa Code 686B.7(5) (2017), which provides that a defendant in an asbestos action “shall not be liable for exposures from a product or component part made or sold by a third party.”  Beverage v. Alcoa, Inc., No. 19-1852, slip op. (Iowa Ct. App. March 17, 2021).  The Plaintiffs brought suit on behalf of Mr. Beverage, who worked as an independent contractor at an Alcoa aluminum plant around asbestos-containing insulation installed by IITI.  Alcoa and IITI, the only two defendants, filed motions for summary judgment claiming that Section 686B.7(5) provided them with immunity from Plaintiffs’ lawsuit.  The district court granted both Alcoa and IITI’s motions for summary judgment.  On appeal, Plaintiffs argued that the district court erred in granting immunity to Alcoa and IITI by incorrectly interpreting Section 686B.7(5).
Continue Reading Iowa Court of Appeals Affirms Summary Judgment in Asbestos Litigation

Mallet, legal code and scales of justice. Law concept, studio shotsLitigators have closely followed a recent decision that has provided needed guidance and has reshaped how asbestos liabilities are apportioned in strict liability cases. On February 19, 2020, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued its long-awaited opinion in Roverano, et al., v. John Crane, Inc., et al., 6 EAP 2018 (Pa. Feb. 19, 2020), which held that in strict liability asbestos cases, damages are to be split per capita among remaining defendants, and that the Fair Share Act under 42 Pa.C.S. § 7102 does not require percentage apportionment of liability in strict liability cases. The decision further held that bankruptcy trusts may be included on the verdict sheet to bring more parties to the table for the purpose of apportioning liability only.

Continue Reading Toxic Tort Monitor: Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Rejects Fair Apportionment of Liability Among Strictly Liable Defendants Under the Fair Share Act

In August of 2019, following a seven-week bench trial, Judge Thad Balkman of Oklahoma’s Cleveland County District Court found biotech and healthcare company Johnson & Johnson responsible for sparking the state’s opioid epidemic through use of “disingenuous marketing schemes” used to drive the sale of its prescription painkillers. This ruling, which ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay the state of Oklahoma $572 million dollars in damages, resulted in the first ever successful lawsuit brought by the state against a defendant drug manufacturer stemming from a sole cause of action: public nuisance.

Continue Reading Toxic Tort Monitor: The Rising Trend of Public Nuisance in Large Scale Litigation

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

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