A judge has granted the motion of two chemical companies to vacate the record-setting asbestos verdict that was awarded in a case against them earlier this year. The reason for the reversal was an alleged conflict of interest between a defendant company and the judge who oversaw the original asbestos trial against that company.
Regular readers of this Madison County mesothelioma law blog will remember our earlier blog posts about the $322 million verdict awarded to a plaintiff with asbestosis, which is believed to be the largest amount of damages ever awarded to a single plaintiff in an asbestos case. However, state damage caps would have reduced the award by more than $260 million.
We also wrote about the subsequent appeal filed by defendants Union Carbide, a unit of Dow Chemical Company, and Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. In the appeal of the asbestos verdict, the defendants asked the state supreme court to remove the judge and overturn the verdict. The companies argued that the judge’s parents both had lawsuits pending against Union Carbide, creating a conflict of interest. The supreme court agreed, removing the judge from the case against his will.
The court did not decide whether to overturn the verdict, but instead assigned a replacement judge to the case and tasked him with determining whether the verdict should stand. Late last month, that second judge granted the defendants’ request to vacate the verdict. There is no indication of when the new trial will take place.
While we do not believe that a judge with a conflict of interest should decide any case, it is unfortunate that the plaintiff will be the one to suffer as a result of the overturned verdict. Hopefully, the case is resolved soon.
Source: Bloomberg, “Union Carbide $322 Million Asbestos Verdict Rejected by Mississippi Court,” Laurence Viele Davidson, Jan. 3, 2012