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Victory for Asbestos Victims: MDL Remands Plaintiffs’ Case to State Court

In a significant victory for asbestos victims, including Timothy and Caroline Vest, Judge Eduardo C. Robreno, Jr. of the Asbestos MDL Court in Philadelphia granted plaintiffs’ motion to remand on May 26, 2011 and ordered that the Vests’ asbestos personal-injury case be immediately transferred back to Alameda County Superior Court where it rightfully belongs.

Sign of Change for Asbestos Law

The Asbestos Multi-District Litigation (MDL) court was established in 1991 as the home for all asbestos lawsuits in federal court throughout the county. It currently consists of 60,000 cases and 3,500,000 claims. Due to the extremely high volume of cases pending before this court, it is not uncommon for cases to be remanded to state court or the local federal district for trial only after several years have elapsed. The speed with which Judge Robreno dealt with this issue is a sign of change that will benefit many other asbestos victims.

Plaintiff’s Asbestos Exposure

Timothy Vest, an airline pilot, suffers from malignant mesothelioma, a disease caused by breathing asbestos dust. He was exposed to the asbestos as a child while visiting his father, an airline pilot, at an airplane maintenance hangar, and later while around airplane maintenance after becoming an airline pilot himself.

On January 6, 2011, a mere 39 days before trial was to start, defendant McDonnell Douglas Corporation removed the Vests’ case to federal court because McDonnell Douglas claimed that while it was aware of Timothy’s claim to have been exposed to asbestos from civilian planes McDonnell Douglas manufactured, it did not know until December 2010 of Timothy’s claim that he was exposed to asbestos from McDonnell Douglas’s military aircraft. In effect, McDonnell Douglas’s removal stayed the case for more than four months and caused significant hardship to the Vest family.

The Judge’s Decision

But then Judge Robreno, in a very well-reasoned memorandum opinion, finally shed light on McDonnell Douglas’s dilatory tactics by finding that its removal was far too late. Judge Robreno held that McDonnell Douglas’s basis for removal was first triggered on August 19, 2010 – 140 days before removal – when Timothy Vest’s father testified about work done on McDonnell Douglas’s military aircraft in the same hangar where Timothy Vest was exposed to asbestos. Federal law only allows 30 days to remove once a defendant learns of a reason to do so. Plaintiffs praise Judge Robreno’s decision and how his very thorough scrutiny of the evidence before him lead to the correct conclusion that McDonnell Douglas’s reason for removal was meritless.

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