Back in the early 1990s I was part of a trial team at the Ness Motley law firm who represented thousands of former workers from the Ingalls Shipyard (Pascagoula, Mississippi) in one very large asbestos trial. It was so large, in fact, that it had to be held in a makeshift courtroom over at the county fairgrounds because the local state courthouse did not have sufficient room for all the attorneys involved with this trial, which lasted about six months.
There has not been any mass trial consolidations for asbestos cases in many years. However, recently the Circuit Court for Baltimore City — a court with one of the largest number of total pending asbestos cases in the US — was asked by an asbestos plaintiffs’ law firm in Baltimore to consolidate more than 13,000 non-mesothelioma cases into a three-phase consolidated trial process.
On March 5, 2014, in a 43-page opinion, Judge John M. Glynn rejected this so-called Baltimore “Consolidation III” proposal. See In re Asbestos Pers. Injury, No. 24-X-87-048500, 2014 WL 895441 (Md. Cir. Ct. Mar. 5, 2014).
Consolidating asbestos cases in a mass trial was a common approach two decades ago, but it has since been abandoned by US courts for various reasons.
The March 2014 Order issued by Judge Glynn in Maryland makes it likely that courts will refuse to approve any other asbestos case consolidations which may be proposed, or not, in the future.
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