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Miss. Supreme Court Removes Judge from $322M Asbestos Case Because of Dad’s Lawsuits

Posted Oct 7, 2011 7:33 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The Mississippi Supreme Court has ordered the recusal of a judge who presided over an asbestos trial that resulted in a $322 million award for the plaintiffs.

The court ordered Judge Eddie Bowen of Smith County to recuse himself after the defendant, Union Carbide, said in a motion that the judge’s father had filed two asbestos lawsuits, report Thomson Reuters News & Insight and Bloomberg News. One of the suits resulted in a settlement with Union Carbide.

“We find that a reasonable person, knowing all of the circumstances, would harbor doubts about Judge Bowen’s impartiality in this particular case,” the supreme court said. The court’s ordered stayed action in the case until a new judge is appointed.

Union Carbide lawyers investigated after Bowen made offhand remarks at trial that his father may have been exposed to asbestos while working at Ingalls Shipbuilding.

A court administrator told Bloomberg that Bowen wasn’t permitted to comment on the matter.

According to Bloomberg, the $322 million award last May had set a record as the largest award to a single asbestos plaintiff. However, a state punitive damages cap would have reduced the amount by at least $260 million.

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