NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - The New York City Asbestos Litigation court has granted plaintiffs law firm Weitz & Luxenberg's motion to consolidate 17 asbestos trials into six separate groups for joint trial.
In a March 14 order, Judge Cynthia Kern approved the move of consolidation because the groups have common questions of law and fact.
"[T]his court finds that the trials in each of the groups involve common questions of law and fact and that consolidation of these cases into the five groups [with more than one plaintiff] will not prejudice a substantial right of defendants," Kern stated.
"Moreover, 'there is a preference for consolidation in the interest of judicial economy and ease of decision-making where there are common questions of law and fact, unless the party opposing the motion demonstrates that consolidation will prejudice a substantial right,'" she added.
In Group 1(a), all four plaintiffs worked as electricians, have been exposed to similar products and have overlapping periods of exposure.
In Group 1(b), the three plaintiffs have had maintained different occupations and worked at different job sites, but have had similar exposure to asbestos-containing products. They've also had exposure in the same manner - by working directly with asbestos-containing products and by means of bystander exposure.
Plaintiffs in Group 2 were both exposed to the same products at similar job sites. They also allege they were exposed to asbestos while aboard ships in the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Navy Yard.
The pair of plaintiffs in Group 3 were both exposed to press pads at commercial dry cleaning facilities as well as military ship-based exposure. They also suffered exposures while working on the railroad. Although, Kern wrote that the railroad exposure is not a sufficient basis by itself to require a separate trial in light of the overlapping issues between the plaintiffs.
Groups 4 and 5 only contain a single plaintiff in each.
Group 6 is the only group of plaintiffs suffering from lung cancer. All other groups involve mesothelioma victims. These claimants were exposed to the same types of products in the same manner - by working directly with the products and by means of bystander exposure.
"Although not all of the groups have all living plaintiffs, 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," Kern stated.
A settlement conference will be held for all parties on April 11 and jury selection for Group 1(a) will begin on April 28. Each of the subsequent trials will be held consecutively unless the court decides otherwise.
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