The Emerging Trends in Asbestos Litigation conference wrapped up today in Southern California (.pdf), and we quickly caught up with asbestos defense attorney Stephen Foley, a founding partner of Foley & Mansfield, while he was at the airport on his way back from the conference.
Q: What were some compelling, attention-grabbing points to come out of the conference?
A: In San Francisco, I think Judge (Harold) Kahn has some very good ideas about things he wants to try to implement to streamline the asbestos litigation and the waste of time and money with depositions that go on for 20-odd days and settlement conferences that go on for months. His ideas make sense for everybody. (For example), he is seriously considering a rule very similar to what the Texas Supreme Court has done, eliminating the ability of lawyers to delay depositions by having long speaking objections. They would not be allowed to make objections other than three words or less. Sometimes people on both sides abuse the privilege and will have objections that go on for a page and a half, and the other guy responds… Judge Kahn is looking at that and saying, ‘We don’t need to do that, it doesn’t help anybody.’” He’s going to get input first (before taking action).
In Los Angeles, Judge (Elihu) Berle said there are going to be some very significant layoffs in the court system and a number of court closures, which is going to seriously negatively impact the resolution of asbestos cases.
Q: Anything noteworthy about trends in asbestos filings?
A: • Out of about 1,000 mesothelioma filings around the country, about 300 end up in California. About 700 end up in Illinois.
• Non-cancer cases have been precipitously dropping off. The only place they are still filed with any regularity is San Francisco.