Heather Isringhausen Gvillo Apr. 25, 2014, 3:46pm

NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - The New York Asbestos Litigation (NYCAL) has agreed to consolidate eight asbestos lawsuits into three separate trial groups set to begin in September.

In an April 18 order, Judge Cynthia Kern granted a motion for consolidate submitted by attorneys from the Early & Straus LLS law firm.

The plaintiffs requested consolidation for trial, claiming the cases include common questions of law and facts.

While a trial court has the discretion to consolidate, Kern wrote, the cases must first fall within certain criteria for consolidation to be proper:

-Common worksite;

-Similar occupation;

-Similar time of exposure;

-Type of disease;

-Whether plaintiffs are living or deceased;

-Status of discovery in each case;

-Whether all plaintiffs were represented by the same counsel; and

-Type of cancer alleged.

The plaintiffs argue consolidation is proper because each case is at the same phase of discovery and the plaintiffs are represented by the same law firm.

Because the eight cases in question meet all of these standards, Kern granted the motion and organized the cases into three separate groups.

Group 1 includes James Proctor, Michael Viggiano and Vincent Santino.

Group 2 includes Ronald Maxwell, Richard Thomas and Murray Walker.

Group 3 includes Louis D'Esposito and Richard Kaufold.

Each of the plaintiffs in these cases has developed mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure except those in Group 3, which are instead suffering from lung cancer.

The third group also includes one living claimant and one deceased claimant, but the plaintiffs argue "the death of some of these plaintiffs will not prejudice the jury against the defendants, vis-à-vis, the living plaintiffs' because they are suffering from the same terminal illness and will suffer the same fate," the order states.

The court also took into consideration the fact that the plaintiffs do not all share the same work sites or the same occupations.

However, they do have similar exposures to several of the same asbestos-containing products and their exposures occurred in the same manner, which includes working directly with asbestos-containing products and via bystander exposure. They also each have overlapping periods of exposure.

Kern stated that jury selection for Group 1 will begin on Sep. 22, with the jury trial to follow immediately afterwards. Then each of the subsequent trials for the remaining groups will be held consecutively.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Heather Isringhausen Gvillo at asbestos@legalnewsline.com

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