W&L attorneys define the cutting edge of personal injury and mass tort practice. As a result, they are coveted as public speakers at prestigious gatherings of attorneys of all stripes.Earlier this year, for example, several of W&L’s top legal thinkers shared their views at important and influential conferences in California and New Jersey.At the California event, sponsored by the Perrin Conferences organization, speakers included W&L co-founding partner Perry Weitz, W&L New Jersey office supervising attorney Leonard Feldman, and W&L New York office trial attorney Adam Cooper.Mr. Weitz offered incisive insights on the top emerging trends in asbestos litigation, including the re-evaluation of future claims and national filing patterns.Mr. Weitz also imparted compelling information about asbestos litigation in New York. Specifically, he spotlighted several key shifts in the legal landscape that could help or hinder plaintiffs’ ability to triumph.
Mesothelioma and BAP1 Gene Mutation
Mr. Cooper spoke as a member of a panel exploring the latest epidemiological and medical discoveries pertaining to mesothelioma. His focus was on the BAP1 gene mutation.”Defendants argue that the BAP1 gene mutation in and of itself can cause mesothelioma,” Mr. Cooper said. “However, this defense argument is unsupported by all available scientific research. The evidence points to BAP1 being only a suppressor gene that makes individuals more susceptible to mesothelioma.”Mr. Feldman, meanwhile, was a panelist examining appellate activity, significant developments, and key rulings in Pennsylvania. The W&L New Jersey office handles cases filed both in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Mr. Feldman described emerging opportunities in Pennsylvania to sue employers for asbestos injuries, which arose from the 2013 Tooey v. A.K. Steel decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
“Prior to Tooey, your only option was to apply for workers compensation, hoping to collect a few hundred dollars a week for a limited amount of time,” he said. “Now, you have the right to seek a substantial sum from your employer through the court system.”He also told the audience that the 2014 Pennsylvania Superior Court decision in Rost v. Ford Motor Co showed that plaintiffs still could prevail in asbestos cases in Pennsylvania, so long as the experts used the proper methodology to reach their conclusions.
Mr. Feldman explained that there had been concern about the future of such cases after the 2012 Betz v. Pneumo Abex decision, in which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court seemed to limit expert testimony.
However, according to Mr. Feldman, to date those fears have not been realized.
Defendants’ Federal Court Removal Ploy Described
Mr. Feldman also spoke at a conference sponsored by the Harris-Martin organization and held in New Jersey.Mr. Feldman’s topic there was federal removal — the procedural mechanism by which a defendant can in some instances have a case that was filed in state court moved to a federal court.”A few defendants have tried a novel theory, claiming that if the plaintiff had been a member of a union when he was exposed to asbestos, then the federal Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 should control the case,” he explained. “Fortunately, the federal courts have not accepted this argument for mesothelioma cases.”
Also speaking at that same event was W&L New Jersey office managing attorney Jerry Kristal. He addressed the topic of asbestos hazard “state-of-the-art”— what defendants knew or should have known historically about the dangers of asbestos exposure.
Mr. Kristal asserted that it is implausible for asbestos defendants to claim they were unaware of the hazards of the toxic mineral. Those dangers were broadly known by product manufacturers as far back as the 1930s, Mr. Kristal contended — and knowable for any defendant that chose to investigate the safety of its products.As demonstrated by these prestigious speaking engagements, W&L continues to be a leader in the fight on behalf of victims of asbestos-related diseases.