CHARLESTON — Asbestos litigation in West Virginia is holding steady, close to where it was in 2017.
Victoria Antion, of Antion McGee Law Group, said her firm is filing about the same number of cases this year as they did last year.
"Mid-year we are about where we were last year at this time," Antion said in an interview with The West Virginia Record. "We haven't filed anymore this year than we did last year. We went back and counted and there are not any more than previously--at least with our firm."
Antion noted that she had recently filed several cases in one day, but that it was only because her partner at the firm's wife was getting ready to have a baby.
"We wanted to make sure everything was up and going because of the baby," Antion said. "But our numbers are actually about the same as last year."
In West Virginia, asbestos cases are filed with what is called "short form complaint." The master complaint in all asbestos litigation is on file with the mass litigation panel.
Antion said the short form complaint was done along with Lexus Nexus filings and that it's done as a time and paper saver.
"There is a master complaint that is filed along with the short form complaint that it refers back to," Antion said. "It really is just done to save paper."
Antion said the short form complaint is a simpler way.
"It’s a time saver," she said. "The master complaint does exist, it’s just so you don’t come to the courthouse with 50 pages versus five or six pages."
Asbestos personal injury litigation cases are filed in Kanawha Circuit Court, regardless of where the alleged personal injuries occurred in the state. The cases are then sent to the mass litigation panel.
In 2017 there were 4,998 asbestos personal injury orders filed, according to the mass litigation panel's annual report. Asbestos personal injury cases make up the majority of cases seen before the panel.
The panel had 5,185 orders total between ten separate subjects, including the Yeager Airport litigation from the 2015 hill slide and litigation involving the 2014 chemical spill into the Elk River.
Antion said the asbestos litigation system in West Virginia is really the same as a regular lawsuit.
"It just falls under a case management order that was ordered by the mass litigation panel and under Judge [Ronald] Wilson," Antion said. "There isn’t really anything different other than it falls under the panel."
The chairman of the mass litigation panel is Judge Alan D. Moats of the 19th Judicial Circuit. There are six judges on the panel. Wilson presides over personal injury asbestos litigation for the panel, but he is not a current member of the actual panel.