Roughly one year after Madison County Associate Judge Stephen Stobbs updated the court’s asbestos Standing Case Management Order, attorneys on both sides discussed the effects of the new rules at the HarrisMartin Midwest Asbestos Conference.
The conference was held at the Four Seasons Hotel in St. Louis on Tuesday.
In a panel titled “Bridging Settlement Gaps in Madison County,” Stobbs was joined by asbestos plaintiff attorney Allyson Romani of Shrader & Associates and asbestos defense attorney Eric Hall of HeplerBroom to discuss one area of changes.
The trio talked about the impact of mandatory settlement conferences, mediation options in Madison County and lessons from complex allocation hearings.
The 84-page standing order was updated on Aug. 19 and imposes mandatory settlement conferences on the Wednesday before every trial week.
The panel agreed that the new settlement schedule has helped relieve burdens and solve disputes by getting the parties to begin discussions prior to a trial setting.
In previous years, parties wouldn’t begin settlement discussions or attempt to resolve issues until the week a case was set for trial. By then, a jury had already been summoned to serve.
With the new schedule, attorneys are often times able to resolve a case before a jury is called. Or, at the very least, trials can begin earlier in the week because disagreements are handled sooner.
The panel explained that these changes have helped trial weeks run more smoothly.
Romani said the settlement conferences also help plaintiffs’ firms narrow down which cases are a priority.
The new structure keeps the busy asbestos docket moving.
Stobbs added that when firms are able to provide their target list of cases sooner, parties are provided with more advanced notice and are able to prepare and generate information earlier.
Since the new rules were implemented in January, two asbestos cases have gone to trial.
In the first trial, jurors returned a verdict in favor of defendant Hennessy Industries Inc. on Feb. 28.
Plaintiffs Stan and Janet Urban of Michigan alleged Stan was exposed to asbestos using Ammco brake grinders while employed as a high school auto technology teacher.
The second trial this year ended in a settlement at the end of March.
Plaintiff Larry Pridemore of Ohio was suing Special Electric Company Inc. The plaintiff alleged he was exposed to crocidolite asbestos while working at Flintkote, which was known for manufacturing asbestos-containing roofing materials.