On March 10, 2020, in a 54 to 46 vote, the Iowa House of Representatives passed Senate File 2337 (SF2337) in an effort to reduce the over-naming of asbestos defendants in related lawsuits filed in Iowa. The legislation focuses on reducing, or eliminating, the over-naming of asbestos defendants by requiring plaintiffs to provide detailed evidence of exposure for each named defendant. While Iowa is not known as a hot-spot for asbestos-related lawsuits, Iowa has reportedly seen its fair share of alleged asbestos related deaths.¹ Iowa’s lack of asbestos filings likely comes as a result of the state’s significant tort reform efforts, with SF2337 being the latest addition.
On May 12, 2020, the Missouri legislature passed Senate Bill 591 (SB 591), which provides major changes related to how punitive damages are assessed in civil and medical malpractice actions and brings significant reform to the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA), Missouri’s consumer protection law. Missouri Governor Mike Parsons is expected to sign the bill shortly.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently updated its Handbook for Employers: Guidance for Completing Form I-9, also called M-274. These changes are meant to clarify and add detail to existing Form I-9 rules, but do not alter the Form I-9 rules themselves or the version of the Form I-9 that employers should currently be using. As of April 30, all employers must use Form I-9 dated 10/21/2019. However, a few of these clarifications to the new edition of USCIS’ Handbook are of note.
Around the time that much of the United States was beginning to shut down in response to COVID-19, President Trump nominated Dr. Nancy B. Beck for Commissioner and Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). A review of Dr. Beck’s education and background shows that the vast majority of her career – over 15 years – has been spent in public service. Yet Dr. Beck’s nomination has been met with criticism of her roughly five years as a Director at the American Chemistry Council (ACC). For instance, the Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee issued a press release which highlighted Dr. Beck’s time at the ACC and claimed that Dr. Beck was “doing the bidding of the chemical industry at the expense of the health and safety of the American public.” Likewise, the Washington Post and New York Times headlined articles about Dr. Beck with a description of her as a “chemical industry executive.” While it may be expected that Dr. Beck’s detractors would focus on her time at the ACC, media characterizations of her as a “chemical industry executive” do not accurately describe the whole of her professional efforts.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES ACT) was recently passed to provide economic relief to small businesses that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. Due to the number of businesses that applied for aid, funding for the CARES Act was quickly depleted. On April 24, 2020, President Trump signed into law an amendment to the CARES Act providing additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Emergency Economic Injury Disaster (EIDL) grants and loans. The amendment increased the appropriation level for PPP by $321.335 billion (which includes an additional $310 billion for PPP loans, and $11.335 billion for administrative fees) and authorized an additional $10 billion for emergency EIDL grants and $50 billion for EIDL loans. As before, both the PPP and EIDL funds are available on a first-come, first serve-basis. Consequently, eligible businesses that are interested in benefiting from these programs are encouraged to apply as soon as possible, as funds from this second round are also expected to be exhausted quickly.
To assist you in your application process, we have prepared a brief overview of the eligibility requirements, terms and application procedures for the PPP and EIDL loan programs. If you have any additional questions please visit the Husch Blackwell CARES Act Frequently Asked Questions page or contact a member of the Cortex Team.
Litigators have closely followed a recent decision that has provided needed guidance and has reshaped how asbestos liabilities are apportioned in strict liability cases. On February 19, 2020, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued its long-awaited opinion in Roverano, et al., v. John Crane, Inc., et al., 6 EAP 2018 (Pa. Feb. 19, 2020), which held that in strict liability asbestos cases, damages are to be split per capita among remaining defendants, and that the Fair Share Act under 42 Pa.C.S. § 7102 does not require percentage apportionment of liability in strict liability cases. The decision further held that bankruptcy trusts may be included on the verdict sheet to bring more parties to the table for the purpose of apportioning liability only.
On January 21, 2020, the Fourth District Appellate Court reversed a $3.2 million asbestos jury verdict, holding Tremco, Incorporated (Tremco) was entitled to judgment notwithstanding the verdict where Plaintiff presented insufficient evidence of causation. Krumwiede v. Tremco, Inc., 2020 IL App (4th) 180434.
On January 3, 2020, in Mary Ellerbrock, Individually, and as Special Administrator of the Estate of Alex Kaszynski, Deceased, v. A.O. Smith Corp., et. al. (case No. 18-L-1434), the Third Judicial Circuit Court in Madison County, IL, denied defendant PW Power Systems’ (“PW”) motion to transfer based on forum non conveniens. In this asbestos case, premises Defendant PW sought to have the case moved from Madison County, IL to LaSalle County, IL. In denying PW’s motion, the Court referenced the Supreme Court’s decision in Fennell v. Illinois Central R.R. Co., emphasizing “[t]he defendant must show that the plaintiff’s chosen forum is inconvenient to the defendant and that another forum is more convenient to all parties.” 2012 IL 113812, ¶ 6. The Court’s reliance on Fennell for support that all defendants must join the motion is misplaced given that Fennell involved only one defendant.
Many business operations affected heavily by environmental regulations are considered “essential” and are up and running to ensure our country has the products and services it needs to respond to the COVID-19 emergency. We are hearing that these businesses are straining under the pressure to maintain social distancing requirements, quarantine individuals exposed to the virus, sustain operations with reduced personnel, protect their personnel, and preserve their supply chain resources. Although all companies understand the need to protect human health and the environment, it may be impossible to meet every deadline, take every reading, and make every inspection during this emergency.
Recognizing this reality, many Federal and state agencies are issuing enforcement relief and response policies providing guidance on how to respond if environmental or other regulatory requirements can’t be met. Husch Blackwell has gathered Federal and state COVID-19 enforcement relief and response policies for environmental and motor carrier safety regulations. A complete list of these policies is posted as a resource on our website.
On December 19, 2019, the First District issued its opinion in Daniels v. Arvinmeritor, Inc., affirming a $6 million verdict for the estate of Patrick O’Reilly, a union pipefitter from 1957 to 1998 who passed away from mesothelioma in April of 2017. 2019 IL App (1st) 190170 (formerly Daniels v. John Crane, Inc.). John Crane was the only defendant left when the jury verdict was reached, subjecting it to a nearly $5 million liability after set-offs were subtracted. After its motion for a new trial was denied, John Crane appealed arguing the trial erred in denying its post-trial motion because the court: (1) allowed Plaintiff’s medical expert, Dr. Abraham, to testify that the cumulative dose of Plaintiff’s exposure to all products caused his injury; (2) provided inaccurate jury instructions regarding proximate cause and the state of the art defense in asbestos cases; (3) failed to include four settled defendants on the jury form; and (4) did not properly analyze certain settlement agreements prior to making good faith findings. The appellate court ultimately affirmed the judgment of the circuit court. Below is a brief analysis on each of the issues on appeal.