ST. LOUIS – Since asbestos cases have found their way back into federal courts across the nation, attorneys from both sides of the asbestos litigation field have agreed that litigating in district courts is nothing to be afraid of.
As part of the HarrisMartin Midwest Asbestos Conference in St. Louis, U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen C. Williams was joined by plaintiff attorney Allyson Romani and defense attorney Anita Kidd to discuss the growing number of asbestos cases being removed to federal court, specifically the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.
Romani explained that when plaintiff attorneys first get asbestos cases removed to federal court, panic sets in. Or, as Kidd put it, litigating before a federal judge can be “nerve-racking” compared to state court.
However, the two addressed those fears, saying the extra work and strict guidelines can actually be beneficial.
“Federal court is not a place to be scared of,” said Kidd of Armstrong Teasdale.
Because litigating asbestos cases in federal court is significantly different than litigating in state court, the group addressed factors that must be considered when a case is removed to district court.
The most noticeable difference between federal court and state court is the extra work and stricter schedules in federal court.
Romani, an attorney with Shrader & Associates, explained that while plaintiff attorneys are used to the expediting of cases in state court, specifically Madison County, there is “much more” work needed in federal court.
She advised attorneys to communicate before getting involved in court and to be “overly inclusive.”
Kidd agreed, explaining that federal cases have to be “worked up.”
“Don’t wait until just before trial to get your ducks in a row. You need to get your ducks in a row as the case progresses,” said Kidd.
In fact, Romani suggested decreasing the number of defendants named in an asbestos suit as soon as the case is removed, because parties “do not want to be litigating these cases with 90 defendants. If someone doesn’t need to be there, get rid of them.”
Williams also stressed the federal court’s push for settlements in asbestos cases when a lengthy and costly trial can be avoided.
“We obviously can’t try every case,” he said.