N.C. asbestos plaintiffs forum shop in Madison County and Delaware

Steve Korris Mar. 22, 2007, 3:26am

WILMINGTON, Del. – In a brazen act of forum shopping, two North Carolina residents filed asbestos suits in Delaware while they had the same suits running in Madison County.

Plaintiffs Robert Overby and Vera Campbell-Emanuel quickly decided they preferred Delaware. They dismissed their Madison County suits.

Campbell-Emanuel then told a Delaware court she had never filed a personal injury suit and had never been a party to any litigation.

These double dippers stick out from an avalanche of asbestos litigation that slid from Madison County to Delaware in 2005.

Three years ago Delaware courts did not accept asbestos suits from residents of other states. Three years ago Madison County did.

When Circuit Judge Daniel Stack replaced Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron as Madison County asbestos judge in 2005, Stack started granting motions to dismiss suits of plaintiffs who did not live in Illinois.

SimmonsCooper law firm of East Alton, the leader in Madison County asbestos litigation, shifted its asbestos action to Wilmington.

Baron & Budd, an asbestos firm in Texas, also stopped filing in Madison County and shifted to Delaware.

SimmonsCooper and Baron & Budd needed local counsel to file suits. The Wilmington firm of Bifferato, Gentilotti, Biden and Balick met that need.

Joseph "Beau" Biden III, son of U.S. Sen. Joe Biden and recently elected state attorney general of Delaware, is a partner of the firm.

The 11th suit in SimmonsCooper's Delaware blitz came from Overby. He filed it May 27, 2005.

He had filed suit in Madison County Dec. 22, 2004. The suit remained open as he sued in Delaware.

He voluntarily dismissed the Madison County suit June 8, 2005.

Campbell-Emanuel filed suit in Delaware June 7, 2005.

She had filed suit in Madison County Dec. 30, 2004, as Vera Campbell. The suit remained open as she sued in Delaware.

On July 7, 2005, she voluntarily dismissed her Madison County suit.

On Aug. 7, 2005 attorney Ian Bifferato of Wilmington filed 42 pages of answers to interrogatories for Campbell-Emanuel.

Question 61 asked if she ever filed a personal injury suit. Question 62 asked if she had been a party to any litigation.

She answered "no" to both.

Campbell-Emanuel and Overby belong to a group of 20 set for mass trial before New Castle County Superior Court Judge Joseph Slights in May.

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