In an article for Mealey’s Asbestos and Lexis Legal News, Joseph Cagnoli Jr., co-chair of Goldberg Segalla’s Toxic Tort practice, joins Peter Kelso and Marc Scarcella of Roux Associates to discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted asbestos litigation.
Asbestos dockets across the country have experienced a decrease in filing and resolution rates, on top of a host of technical challenges stemming from virtual operations through state shutdown orders. In the article, Joe, Peter, and Marc go in-depth about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on asbestos cases in 2020, providing an update on asbestos defendants that have filed for bankruptcy this year and offering insight into some of the important caselaw and legislative developments in jurisdictions across the country. They also discuss state and federal courthouse closures and the enactment of remote procedures to resolve asbestos personal injury cases in response to state shutdown orders, which forced legal professionals to alter their practices by working remotely or adhering to new court procedures for defending cases virtually.
“Thus far, there have been a few bumps in the road in terms of due process as the courts and litigants continue to acclimate to the new remote environment,” they write. “Several cases have involved issues with poor electronic connections, logistics concerning virtual depositions, document production limitations, and other complications with the new remote legal system. For instance, California recently filed a motion for a mistrial claiming that during a sidebar by the attorneys with the judge there was an alleged improper interaction between the plaintiff and several jurors in the virtual courtroom. In West Virginia, the judge presiding over a consolidated docket of 38 mesothelioma and lung cancer cases involving hundreds of defendants, urged parties to settle rather than proceed with a ‘dreadful experience’ of trying the cases under social distancing safety measures in the 4,000-square-foot Highlands Events Center.”
“How West Virginia and the rest of the country address the issues of moving forward mass asbestos dockets in the face of Covid-19 will be interesting,” Joe and his co-authors conclude. “The pandemic has been virtually the only interruption in the history of asbestos litigation as it has forged a path in United States courts over the course of more than 40 years. … Going forward, it will be imperative for the parties to work together to creatively implement new practices in light of the pandemic and continue to improve the efficacy of asbestos case resolution, now and when the pandemic is over.”
“Asbestos Litigation Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic: New Developments in 2020,” Mealey’s Asbestos/Lexis Legal News, October 13, 2020
Joseph Cagnoli Jr. is a trial lawyer who represents individuals, corporations, and public entities in toxic tort, environmental, and product liability litigation and matters involving alleged municipal or public entity liability. Well-versed in all aspects of trial preparation and proceeding, Joe has litigated in state and federal courts in multiple jurisdictions including Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, Connecticut, California, Ohio, and Delaware. Joe handles all aspects of case management and analysis, witness deposition, expert development, settlement negotiation, and trial. Joe also represents clients in the film, music, and arts industries, and has additionally served as a legal consultant on a feature film.