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Asbestos lawsuit plaintiffs ordered to prove Mississippi ties

JACKSON, Miss. - Associated Press - Dec. 30, 2004 - Some 13,000 plaintiffs in three Mississippi courts have been ordered to show they either live in Mississippi or were injured here or face the chance their lawsuits will be dismissed.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Lamar Pickard has given about 8,000 plaintiffs 20 days to say where they live and where they were exposed to asbestos. In cases that involve Mississippi companies, the county of each company must be listed. More than 10,000 plaintiffs overall have sued in Jefferson, Copiah and Claiborne counties, alleging injuries from asbestos.

Holmes County Circuit Judge Jannie Lewis has set a 60-day deadline for about 4,000 plaintiffs to show why they have standing to sue in Holmes, Humphreys or Yazoo counties. Those exposed out of state will be dismissed, and the claims of those allegedly exposed in other counties will be transferred to those districts.

Circuit Judge Winston Kidd has delivered a similar ruling in Hinds County, involving about 1,300 plaintiffs and giving them a 225-day deadline.

The lawsuits involve thousands of plaintiffs in and outside Mississippi and hundreds of defendants. The defendants are mostly companies where the plaintiffs claimed to have been exposed to asbestos.

The judges' actions came in response to a Mississippi Supreme Court ruling in August on an asbestos case from Bolivar County.

The Supreme Court ruled the plaintiffs must provide the defendants with information on who each plaintiff sued and why. That information should also include when the plaintiff was exposed and the work site where the exposure occurred.

The Supreme Court said if the information is not provided, the claim should be thrown out. The justices also said separate trials should be scheduled for each plaintiff and those cases involving residents in other Mississippi counties should be transferred to other courts.

The Supreme Court has ruled similarly in lawsuits against the maker of a diet drug. In those cases, the court said it was improper to group plaintiffs together when their claims did not arise from the same incident.

"The judges' rulings relating to out-of-state plaintiffs not only follows the law, but makes common sense. Mississippi should not be a dumping ground for claims that have no connection to this state," said Jackson defense lawyer Larry Jones.

Starkville lawyer Mickey Montgomery who represents 5,864 plaintiffs, said the rulings are not the final hearings.

"There are a lot of issues involved in this," he said. "Each plaintiff may have different causes of action. There are so many scenarios."

Marcy Bryan Croft, a Jackson lawyer who represents more than 75 defendants, said she conservatively estimates about half of the more than 13,000 plaintiffs affected are from out of state.

She said more rulings are expected.

"We expect them to continue to enter them in other cases, but it's a long and tedious process," she said.

Circuit Judge Billy Landrum has not ruled on asbestos cases in Jones County involving about 15,000 plaintiffs.

Asbestos is a white, flaky substance routinely used a half century ago for insulation and in shipbuilding. It has been known to cause lung cancer and a lung-scarring disease called asbestosis.

Defendant companies have asked Mississippi judges to dismiss the asbestos lawsuits, citing recent court cases that have thrown out "shotgun" complaints. A shotgun complaint often involves hundreds of plaintiffs and is so vague in describing circumstances and injuries that defendants claim the allegations are difficult or impossible to respond to.

Croft said that's been one of the major problems with this mass litigation: "You'd certainly hate to be sued by thousands of people and not know why."

Montgomery and other plaintiffs' lawyers have defended their cases as giving plenty of specifics to the defendants.

Croft said these rulings by judges will help those truly injured. "It will give Mississippi citizens better access to Mississippi courts," she said.

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Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com


Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization Awards Leading Voices in Asbestos Awareness Top Honors; Awards to be Received on First Annual National Asbestos Awareness Day

REDONDO BEACH, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 8, 2005--The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) today announced three award winners for their outstanding work and dedication to asbestos awareness related activities. Specifically, Laurie Kazan-Allen will receive the Tribute to Unity Award for her work to unite, educate and empower asbestos victims, activists and public health workers; Gayla Benefield will be presented with the Tribute to Hope Award for her determination and quest for medical care and justice for the countless people of Libby, Montana; and Jill Vaughn will be recognized with the Tribute to Inspiration Award for being a bridge to hope for mesothelioma victims and their families as she continues to offer encouragement, comfort, guidance and humor.

The honorees will receive their awards on the first annual Asbestos Awareness Day on April 1, 2005 in Washington D.C. Asbestos Awareness Day is an opportunity to recognize accomplishments, remember and honor loved ones and increase awareness about the dangers of asbestos. Details will be posted on the ADAO website, www.asbestosdiseaseawareness.org.

"Laurie, Gayla and Jill are truly inspirational women of commitment, compassion and as well as leaders in asbestos awareness and victim support," said Linda Reinstein, Co-Founder & Executive Director of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. "Asbestos Awareness Day is a landmark step towards education, prevention and a cure. More than 30 million homes and buildings across the nation contain asbestos - these incurable and often deadly diseases are not going way."

About Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization

Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) was founded by asbestos victims and their families. ADAO seeks to give asbestos victims and concerned citizens a united voice to help ensure that their rights are fairly represented and protected, while raising public awareness about the dangers of asbestos exposure and often deadly asbestos related diseases. ADAO is an independent organization funded through voluntary contributions and staffed by volunteers. For more information visit www.asbestosdiseaseawareness.org

Contacts

Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO)
Douglas Larkin, 703-250-3590 x1245
Cell: 202-391-1546
doug@asbestosdiseaseawareness.org

 


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