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Plaintiff's letter to asbestos witnesses was 'unfair and improper'

More than a dozen potential witnesses to an asbestos lawsuit may not be able to testify after the presiding judge ruled that a letter sent to those witnesses by the plaintiff's attorney was an "unfair and improper tactic." Now, the prejudicial effect of that letter on each witness will be established by the judge on a case-by-case basis, which will determine whether or not the witness can testify in court.

The asbestos lawsuit was filed against a group of companies that allegedly manufactured and supplied products containing asbestos. The plaintiff is a former employee of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) who has contracted mesothelioma as a result of being exposed to asbestos during the course of his employment. General Electric Co., Georgia-Pacific Corp., Union Carbide Corp., Bayer CropScience Inc., and Industrial Holdings Corp. are among the defendant companies to the lawsuit.

According to a motion filed by the defense attorneys, the plaintiff's mesothelioma attorney sent a letter to 17 potential witnesses, all of whom had worked for the TVA with the plaintiff. In the letter, the plaintiff's counsel reportedly asked the witnesses not to speak with the defense attorneys, claiming that to do so would extend their time commitment and potentially harm the plaintiff's case.

The defense attorneys objected, filing a motion in which they asked the judge to issue a "blanket prohibition" that would bar any of the 17 witnesses from testifying in court. While the judge expressed disappointment at the plaintiff's actions, she declined to expressly prohibit all of the witnesses from testifying, stating that any exclusion of witnesses would be done on a "witness-by-witness basis."

Source: Legal Newsline, "Judge calls letter to asbestos witnesses 'improper'," Jessica M. Karmasek, Oct. 31, 2011

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