Newport News, Virginia, is not new to the American Tort Reform Association’s annual Judicial Hellholes list. It’s been ranked on several past reports for what the report says is its courts’ evidentiary double standards, unsound legal rulings, and lack of transparency in asbestos litigation. However, according to the 2017-2018 report, things may be turning around.
The last asbestos case to go to trial in Newport News was in early 2016, so ATRA noted that it’s unclear whether what the report called “problems and inequities” that have existed in the past will continue but that one potential bright spot was the new slate of judges that have taken the bench in the Newport News Circuit Court.
One such judge dismissed an asbestos case that violated the statute of limitations, and it also appears that asbestos defendants may finally be able to use a federal forum in “failure to warn” cases. In three cases in 2017, the federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals set previous Virginia rulings aside and issued rulings that made it clear that in claims about the failure to warn of asbestos hazards, the defendants have the right to defend those lawsuits in federal court when they were under contract to the federal government.
“Although plaintiffs will vigorously resist any effort to take these cases out of Newport News, it is fully expected that companies sued in the litigation will turn to these decisions first should they seek removal,” the report said. “Nonetheless, Newport News remains a jurisdiction to watch. Newfound fairness may be trending there at the moment, but it’s far too soon for asbestos defendants to relax.”
Visit http://www.judicialhellholes.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/judicial-hellholes-report-2017-2018.pdf to read the full report.