By Alex Rossi

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals “adopt[ed] a bright-line rule [on January 11, 2018]: Section 1446(b)(3)’s removal clock begins ticking upon receipt of the deposition transcript” as opposed to running from the date of the deposition testimony. The decision in Morgan v. Huntington Ingalls, Inc., et al, No. 17-30523, __ F.3d __ (5th Cir. 1/11/18) was one of first impression for the court.

Plaintiff, Curtis Morgan filed the original lawsuit alleging he contracted mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure at various industrial facilities in Louisiana. Morgan specifically alleged that he was exposed to asbestos through his employment at Avondale Shipyard in New Orleans as a sheet metal tacker in the 1960s. Seventy-eight (78) defendants were originally named in the lawsuit.

Morgan was deposed over eight days from March 9 to April 13, 2017. On the second day of testimony, Morgan testified that he worked on unspecified vessels at Avondale Shipyard. On March 20, Morgan agreed with medical records presented by counsel for Avondale Shipyard that one of the vessels on which he worked was the USS Huntsville, a vessel Avondale refurbished on behalf of officers of the U.S. government.

Based on the testimony regarding Morgan’s work on the USS Huntsville for the U.S. Government, Avondale removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana on April 28, 2017 under the federal officer removal statute and claimed that removal was timely filed 30 days after receipt of Morgan’s deposition transcript. Morgan opposed the removal as untimely, claiming that the removal clock began from Morgan’s testimony regarding the USS Huntsville, which took place 38 days prior to removal. Morgan further argued that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1442.

In finding the removal untimely, the district court determined that the removal clock for “other paper” under § 1446 began running on the date of the oral deposition testimony, and not the later date of receipt of the deposition transcript. The district court did not address whether the substantive requirements of § 1442 had been met for federal officer jurisdiction.

Citing the plain meaning and purpose of § 1446(b), as well as policy considerations, the 5th Circuit found that oral testimony at a deposition does not constitute an “other paper.” Instead, the court found the removal clock begins upon receipt of the deposition transcript as the “other paper” providing the basis for the removal. In adopting this bright light rule, the 5th Circuit balanced the competing goals of removal: encouraging prompt and proper removal and preventing, hasty, improper removals. The court declined to follow the “notice” standard adopted by the 10th Circuit, finding it counterintuitive to start the clock for removal before the objective evidence is received by the defendant.

The 5th Circuit remanded the case to the district court to address whether the substantive requirements of federal officer removal have been met.

 

 

The Medicare laws have undergone significant changes. With the relatively new reporting regulations and the focus on compliance, litigators must implement new procedures in their practice.  Many companies are establishing guidelines to obtain information needed to comply with the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (“MSP”) and the Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007 (“MMSEA”).

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) is responsible for oversight of the Medicare program. While the CMS has published information to guide the parties, there is room for interpretation of many of the guidelines and, in some instances, there are no guidelines to assist the parties.

Our White Paper is designed to provide parties involved in toxic tort liability suits with knowledge of the key provisions of the MSP and the MMSEA. The manuscript focuses on the practical aspects of obtaining information needed for compliance, common misconceptions and risk avoidance. The manuscript also discusses the significance of cases involving incidents that pre-date the December 5, 1980 MSP, practical aspects of determining when the December 5, 1980 policy may be applied and recent guidance from the CMS on that issue.

Download the White Paper.

 

By Mark D. Mese

The purpose of this post is to provide insureds with general information that will assist them in recognizing important facts and issues related to insurance coverage of environmental disasters. The primary areas addressed include (1) understanding the general types of potential insurance coverage; (2) recognizing environmental disasters; (3) deciding what to do once an environmental disaster is discovered to improve the possibility of insurance coverage and finally, (4) long term plans to improve coverage of potential future environmental disaster claims.

Insurance Policies

Insurance Coverage for Environmental Disaster Coverage is a complicated subject that must consider many different issues over many different timelines and many different jurisdictions with many different types of hazards. Understanding what an environmental disaster is and recognizing that one has occurred is the first thing an insured must do. Until the insured has recognized that an environmental disaster has occurred, it cannot ask the insurer for coverage and it cannot provide notice and coverage cannot be triggered. There are many different types of environmental disasters, a brief review of the history of the pollution exclusion in general liability policies provides some prospective as to how insurers look at environmental disasters and coverage.

Early standard general liability policies issues prior to 1966 contained insuring agreements that provided coverage for injury (caused by accident). The standard insurance service organization (ISO form) which is a general liability form used by most insurers was revised in 1966 to provide coverage for an “occurrence” with neither “expected” nor “intended” by the insured and specifically included continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same conditions in its coverage. As a result of these changes, claims related to environmental damages increase dramatically. Insurers using the standard form added a mandatory endorsement in 1970 (ISO Form 00020173 1973) that excluded coverage using the following language:

“Bodily injury or property damage arising out of the discharge, dispersal, release or escape of smoke vapors, fumes, acids, alkalis, toxic chemicals, liquids or gases, waste materials or other irritants, contaminants or pollutants into or upon land, the atmosphere or any watercourse or body of water.”

The referenced ISO form was often used in conjunction with a carve-back in of coverage which provided: “this exclusion does not apply if such discharge, dispersal, release or escape is sudden and accidental.”

As you might expect, and as many of you may know, the 1970’s and 1980’s were a turbulent period for insureds and insurers who were engaged in coverage disputes under CGL policies for pollution related claims. Courts in the various jurisdictions reached different conclusions and were often at odds which made predicting coverage difficult.

The insurers, through the insurance service organization, created an absolute pollution exclusion in 1985 (See ISO form CG0021207), which excluded coverage for the following:

“Bodily injury” or property damage” arising out of the actual, alleged, or threatened discharge, dispersal, release or escape of pollutants:

At or from any premises, site or location which is or was at any time owned, occupied, or rented or loaned to, an insured[.]

“Pollutants” means solid, liquid, gaseous or thermal irritant or contaminant, including smoke, vapor, soot, fumes, acids, alkalis, chemicals and waste. Waste includes materials to be recycled, reconditioned or reclaimed.”

The absolute pollution exclusion lacked an exception for coverage for sudden or accidental problems and it did not provide coverage for allegations or threats of a polluting event and it also eliminated the requirement for a discharge into a foreign land, the atmosphere or water course or a body of water.

Not surprisingly, the absolute pollution exclusion was a source of significant litigation between insureds and insurers and lead to various interpretations by courts across the country. Some courts fell into a camp which accepted the insurance industry’s broad interpretation of the exclusion. Another group affords limited exclusion to damages when an undefined claim involved harm to the broader environment. Another group of courts found that the exclusion was ambiguous or required to be interpreted based on history of the exclusion and looked at the presentations of the insurance industry to the various insurance commissioners in the various states “Doer v. Mobil Oil Corporation,” 774 So.2d 119, 2000-0947, (La. 12/19/00). Knowing which state an environmental disaster is in and more importantly, what state law is going to apply to coverage, becomes very important and can be important in planning litigation as will be discussed below in some detail.

There are many types of insurance products today providing various types of coverage for environmental disasters. A review of all of the different products available is beyond the scope of this paper. Coverage ranges from limited coverage provided via endorsements to CGL policies to stand alone policy forms. Over the years, insureds have sought an expansion of coverage to avoid the gaps created by the pollution exclusions in CGL policies. In recent years there has been a significant increase in the number of carriers providing environmental coverage products compared to the limited market of even five or six years ago. Based on work with brokers over the last year or so, it appears that there are around 30 different insurers now offering some form of environmental coverage. Coverage available for environmental claims is more readily available currently on a claims made basis; although occurrence based insurance is also sometimes available.

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Continue Reading Insurance Coverage of Environmental Disasters

By Katie D. Bell

Electronic Discovery, or “E-Discovery”, is not considered the “novel issue” it once was. However, E-Discovery still presents problems that litigants and courts struggle with. Below is a summary of recent Louisiana Federal Court opinions dealing with the issues surrounding E-Discovery.

In Frees, Inc. v. McMillian, 2007 WL 184889 (W.D. La. Jan. 22, 2007), the Western District of Louisiana granted the plaintiff’s motion to compel. In an unfair competition and trade secret theft action, the plaintiff claimed that the defendant, a former employee, had stolen various data files. Plaintiff had unsuccessfully requested production of defendant’s laptop and desktop. The Court granted the motion to compel the defendant to produce these two items because they were the most likely places that the data files would be located. The Court did institute protective measures so as to prevent the disclosure of any irrelevant or personal information.
 

Continue Reading Recent Developments in E-Discovery in Louisiana

by Erich P. Rapp

A journal article on the potential for exposure to benzene associated with the use of certain products containing benzene was just published. This article was written by Pamela Williams and others. This researcher was mentioned in an earlier blog entry that I posted concerning trace benzene. This study is not a trace benzene study, but it will interest anyone dealing with benzene exposure claims resulting from the use of certain types of historic products. 

The article is entitled , Airborne Concentrations of Benzene Associated with the Historical Use of Some Formulations of Liquid Wrench. The article was published in the Journal of Environmental and Occupational Hygiene, June 2007, 4:547-561.

by Erich P. Rapp

On Thursday May 31, 2007, U.S. District Judge Kathryn H. Vratil of the Kansas District Court denied the motions to dismiss of PepsiCo Inc. and privately held Sunny Delight Beverages Co. and Rockstar Inc. in litigation related to possible benzene exposure from drinking certain of the defendants’ soft drinks.

The plaintiffs claim that when certain soft drinks containing vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, and either sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate are exposed to light and heat that a reaction can form benzene in the beverages. In some cases, the plaintiffs contend that the result can be benzene levels four times higher than the federal drinking water standard.

The risks associated with trace benzene claims continues.

http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070530/BUSINESS01/705300327/1066/BUSINESS01  

by Erich P. Rapp

Any industry manufacturing or even using products with even trace levels of benzene should be aware of the growing trend among trial attorneys to bring benzene exposure claims. It may be nearing the time for companies to undertake aggressive efforts to reduce or eliminate potential exposure to these types of claims 
Several recent blogosphere entries suggest that three women from Florida, New Jersey, and Kansas have sued The Sunny Delight Beverages Company, Pepsico, Shasta (National Beverage Company), and the Rockstar Energy Drink Co. claiming that some of their soft drink products contain ingredients that can combine to form benzene when exposed to heat and light. The suits were said to have been filed in the summer of 2006. The women are said to be represented by Boston attorney Andrew Rainer.
Numerous recent web accounts suggest that Coca Cola settled benzene related claims in May 2007.
Is this type of claim the tip of a large legal iceberg or a passing nuisance?