SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON SUPERIOR COURT TOXIC TORT LITIGATION ISSUES REPORT
Both plaintiffs and defendants in Delaware asbestos cases are “overwhelmingly satisfied with the way asbestos litigation is being handled in Delaware” according to a report issued on May 9, 2008. The report was prepared by a committee of members of the Delaware bar appointed by President Judge James T. Vaughn, Jr. of the Superior Court to examine the handling of asbestos litigation. The Committee was formed in response to a letter from James A. Wolfe, President of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce expressing “concern regarding the increasingly large number of toxic-tort personal injury cases now being filed in Delaware Superior Court by out-of-state law firms on behalf of out-of-state plaintiffs.”
As a part of the review process, the Special Committee received comments from Astra Zeneca, a major Delaware corporate citizen, which stated that the Superior Court has “effectively managed the Delaware cases” and that “the Delaware judiciary continues to deserve the national acclaim it routinely receives.”
After reviewing the results of written comments, public hearings, and meetings held with defense and plaintiffs’ counsel, the Committee found that asbestos defendants did not feel burdened by litigating in Delaware and, in fact, cited several advantages to Delaware as a forum. These included Delaware’s requirement (which was not found in other jurisdictions) for disclosure of the information required to assess a claim’s real merits and the fact that “Delaware judges over the years, and Judge Slights most recently, have demonstrated their independence, diligence and willingness to improve the process of handling these cases.” In addition, comments received by the Committee from two major companies in the State, E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Astra Zeneca, emphasized their satisfaction with the Superior Court’s handling of asbestos cases with DuPont indicating that it believed the Court’s “capable management” of these cases was crucial in helping it retain its number one ranking for “Fairness in Litigation Climate for Business in the United States.”
Noting the Court’s history of successfully addressing issues relating to the handling of asbestos cases on an ongoing basis, the Committee recommended a few areas for further consideration by the parties and the Court to further “fine tune” the process and stated in conclusion:
“This Special Committee has listened carefully to all views on the actual workings of Delaware asbestos litigation. We were particularly concerned over the allegations of abuses in other jurisdictions that it was alleged may appear in Delaware because of the increased filings here. After that careful review, we are satisfied that the Delaware asbestos litigation is fairly conducted for both defendants and plaintiffs and is effectively resolving claims. It works and works very well.”
Chief Justice Myron T. Steele praised President Judge James T. Vaughn, Jr. for taking the initiative to investigate the Chamber’s concerns and stated: “I am pleased that business leaders continue to find the Delaware Superior Court to be an effective forum for the resolution of these disputes.”
Attorneys on the Committee were Richard D. Kirk, Bartholomew J. Dalton, Edward M. McNally., Allen M. Terrell, Jr., and Jeffrey M. Weiner.