Federal judge tossing out asbestos cases

PHILADELPHIA – U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno meant it when he said he would start getting rid of suits in his national asbestos court. Robreno, responsible for about 60,000 suits from around the nation, dismissed 444 on April 8 and set an April 21 hearing on another 686 suits. He allowed 279 claims to proceed. Since last fall Robreno has presided over asbestos cases by appointment of the U. S. Judicial Panel on Multi District Litigation. Robreno started enforcing a rule of "one plaintiff, one claim," that treats a claim against 100 defendants as 100 separate claims each requiring specific allegations. Defendants asked for a blanket order dismissing about 30,000 suits that lacked specifics, but Robreno preferred a rule of "one plaintiff, one defense." He invited a specific motion in each case, and the motions started flowing. He set 12 hearings in three months, and after the first one he signed five orders closing claims of 444 plaintiffs. He gave 18 other plaintiffs 20 days to explain why he shouldn't dismiss them. He allowed 249 plaintiffs to proceed after they filed affidavits of compliance. Defendants withdrew motions against 30 plaintiffs. For cases that survived, Robreno required discovery plans in 60 days. As he prepares for further hearings, magistrates under his supervision conduct constant settlement conferences.

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