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Defendant in Mississippi Asbestos Case Faces Filing Deadline for Rehearing

Asbestos-422x580.jpg Union Carbide Corporation, the defendant in an asbestos case, has just a few weeks to file a motion requesting the Mississippi Supreme Court review an unfavorable ruling in its case. On December 12, the Mississippi Supreme Court overruled a trial judge’s decision to throw out a $3.85 million judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, the family of Larry Smith. Smith died in 2002 of lung cancer. In the lawsuit, Smith’s wife argued that her husband was exposed to asbestos that was in drilling additives made by Union Carbide.

The Smith County trial judge stated that the plaintiffs did not prove Smith had been exposed to a particular product on a regular basis in proximity to his work. In a 4-3 vote, the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned the trial judge’s decision and sent the case back down to Smith County. Union Carbide announced that it wants to file reply briefs with the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Smith was allegedly exposed to asbestos while he worked on petroleum drilling rigs from the 1960s until the early 1990s. During that time, it was customary to use chemical drilling additives comprised of asbestos. Smith died three months after he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2002. Court records revealed that Smith was also a heavy smoker. The family filed a lawsuit against Union Carbide in March 2006. After a three-week trial in May 2009, a Smith County jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs and awarded $3.85 million. Less than a year later, the trial judge discarded the verdict.

Union Carbide faces deadline to file for rehearing, www.palmbeachpost.com December 30, 2013


The Mississippi Supreme Court stated that the standard used by the trial judge in throwing out the verdict, the “frequency, regularity, and proximity of exposure” test, was inappropriately applied, as that standard is limited to summary judgment motions before a jury gets a case. Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Josiah Coleman said in the ruling that “at the jury consideration stage, the ‘frequency, regularity, and proximity’ test falls away, and a plaintiff must demonstrate the elements of a design defect product liability claim.” According to Union Carbide, the Mississippi Supreme Court’s December opinion will undoubtedly influence other pending asbestos cases in Mississippi and possibly future filings.

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