Judge Blasts Law Firm for ‘Grisly Game of Asbestos Litigation’
Posted May 7, 2009 6:24 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
A Los Angeles judge has blasted an asbestos litigation firm for refiling a Texas case in California where the standards for a defendant to obtain summary judgment are more exacting.
Judge Aurelio Munoz said such tactics are a "waste of the court's time," the National Law Journal reports. Munoz said the Dallas-based firm that filed the case, Waters & Kraus, has played the same "grisly game of asbestos litigation" in at least nine cases.
The case was first filed in Texas on behalf of high school maintenance worker John Washington Jr. He was deposed for less than five hours over four days in July before the case was dismissed and refiled in California. Washington died before any further depositions were taken.
The defendant, industrial manufacturer Crane Co., claims the Texas deposition should not be used in California because the state requires defendants seeking summary judgment to ask specific questions about their products, the story says. Washington never implicated Crane products in the Texas deposition, and defense lawyers did not ask any questions about them because there was no reason, Crane argues in its court papers.
Waters & Kraus managing partner Peter Kraus told The National Law Journal that the judge "got it 180 degrees wrong." Kraus said lawyers file asbestos cases where sick clients don’t have to submit to lengthy depositions. "And if they die, the facts necessary to prove their case die with them," he said.
"The game-playing here is by the defendants, who literally depose these mesothelioma victims to death 35 to 40 hours in order to do discovery dispositions that they routinely do in six to 10 hours in the rest of the country on the same facts and the same legal issues," Krause told the NLJ.