Asbestos MDL judge invites defendants to turn up pressure

Steve Korris Jun. 11, 2009, 7:39am


PHILADELPHIA – Asbestos lawyers have started abandoning claims rather than reveal the methods behind X-rays of their clients.

U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno, who in February ordered three radiologists to produce all information about their X-rays, declared the matter moot on May 29.

"Subsequent to the memorandum and order, each plaintiff was voluntarily dismissed by plaintiffs' counsel," he wrote.

He cancelled hearings on qualifications of Jay Segarra, Laxminaraya Rao and Richard Bernstein under U.S. Supreme Court rules from a decision named Daubert.

Segarra's lawyer, Matthew Mestayer of Biloxi, Miss., moved in March for reconsideration of the February order but decided in May to make it moot.

Though Robreno agreed on mootness, he invited defendants to turn up the pressure.

"The Court, however, recognizes that certain defendants may wish to pursue Daubert challenges in other appropriate cases," he wrote.

"Such Daubert challenges will be addressed, provided that the defendant making the challenge specifies the plaintiff's name, case number, transferor district court, transferor case number, and the challenged doctor's name," he wrote.

He wrote that in cases he has referred to magistrates, "Daubert challenges may be taken up with the magistrate judge in the same manner."

His order didn't identify the firms whose clients dropped their claims in order to pry the radiologists from the court's grip.

The omission illustrates his balance between mass litigation and individual facts as he rapidly distills valid claims from the fog of national asbestos litigation.

He took over the docket last year by appointment of the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multi District Litigation.

Finding an order in place that would split a suit against many defendants into separate suits, he decided to enforce it.

The strategy turned tens of thousands of suits into more than three million, but asbestos firms failed to follow through on about half.

Defendants rejoiced and their leading lawyer, Marcy Croft of Jackson, Miss., moved to dismiss about 1.5 million claims.

Robreno answered that he wouldn't grant mass orders but would hear motions to show cause why he shouldn't dismiss specific claims.

He recruited a platoon of magistrates to run settlement conferences.

He produced a phenomenal result, reporting resolution of about 500,000 claims from January through April.

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