‘UnSettled’ documentary, on asbestos lawsuits brought against businesses, to hold screening

By Jessica Karmasek | Dec 13, 2016

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - Those interested in asbestos litigation, in particular those who have followed a lawsuit involving a small-town car dealership, will get a chance, for the first time, to view “UnSettled: Inside The Strange World of Asbestos Lawsuits” Wednesday.

A so-called “work-in-progress” screening of the film will be held in the Edward R. Murrow Room at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., starting at 3:30 p.m. ET. The film also can be viewed online at UnSettledTheMovie.com at that time.

Following the screening, at 4:30 p.m. ET, there will be a live question-and-answer session with director Paul Johnson. The session also can be viewed online at UnSettledTheMovie.com.

Johnson, a veteran television journalist and documentary film director, previously directed “Benched: The Corporate Takeover of the Judiciary.”

Described as a true-life legal thriller, “UnSettled” focuses on lawsuits brought against businesses over asbestos claims. In particular, it follows litigation filed against a small-town California car dealership all the way to Washington, D.C., where, as Johnson claims in the film, politicians take big money from asbestos lawyers.

Most recently, in 2014, the dealership at the center of the film, Tulare Sag Inc., a California corporation doing business as Lampe Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep, filed a lawsuit against the Keller Fishback & Jackson law firm for malicious prosecution, for refusing to release the dealership from an asbestos wrongful death case -- despite allegedly having no evidence proving causation or liability.

Michael J. Lampe of the Law Offices of Michael J. Lampe, who represents the dealership, has said the defendants prey on the public through their “offensive” law practices.

He went as far as describe the practices as a “shakedown.”

“They make a living victimizing the public by way of being shakedown artists,” Lampe told Legal Newsline in 2014.

Lampe Dodge’s complaint stemmed from a 2007 asbestos wrongful death case in which the defendants served as counsel for asbestos claimant Johann Hardeman, who filed the underlying suit against 43 defendants for the death of her husband, Leonard Hardeman, as a result of alleged asbestos exposure.

When the case was transferred to the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Tyne Harold Hardeman and Michael Todd Hardeman were named additional plaintiffs.

Lampe Dodge was named a defendant in the underlying asbestos case, with 15 separate causes of action asserted against it.

In the dealership’s malpractice lawsuit, it argued the defendants did not “honestly and reasonably” believe there were grounds for the actions alleged in the asbestos lawsuit.

“The defendants acted maliciously in prosecuting the asbestos case against Lampe, in that they held the specter of a multi-million dollar damage award over Lampe in a case where Lampe had no actual liability to the Hardeman plaintiffs, repeatedly demonstrated that it had no liability to plaintiffs, and would not accede to the defendants’ demands to settle the Hardeman action,” its complaint stated.

According to the film’s website, “UnSettled” tells the story of the public health tragedy of asbestos exposure and the cadre of wealthy lawyers who “have figured out ways to keep half of all the money awarded to sick and dying people.”

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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