West Virginia Record

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Those plantiff’s attorneys who push too far

Our View

By The West Virginia Record | Feb 19, 2020

General court 06

If you’re a parent, you know how it is with teenagers. They don’t mean to be slobs and slackers. They just can’t help it. It’s a phase they’re going through. They’ll man and woman up eventually, take responsibility for their actions, and rejoin the human race.

Or maybe not. Some will and some won’t. Some will learn from their mistakes, and some will keep doing the same stupid things over and over again until the day they die, never stopping to consider that they may be the source of their own problems. They’ll be ornery and incorrigible to the very end. They’ll never grow up. So, stop kidding yourself.

If you’re a judge, you know – or should know – how it is with plaintiff attorneys. They’re just like teenagers. Some of them grow out of it, and some don’t. Eventually, you learn which ones are potentially capable of adult behavior and which ones are lost causes.

First Circuit Judge Ronald Wilson is still learning. He’s overseeing a dozen-plus asbestos cases with more than 150 defendants each and naturally assumed that plaintiff firms would do their best to whittle down those numbers with settlements of lung cancer cases.

Ha! Didn’t happen.

“Bottom line: there is no way I can mediate these cases with the vast number of defendants,” Wilson wrote in his notice canceling a Feb. 6 mediation.

“I assumed that with the importance of the mesothelioma cases and the always possibility of an extended meso trial that you would be making every effort to settle your lung cancer cases prior to the start of the mesothelioma trial,” Wilson wrote.

“I further assumed that because you would make those settlement efforts that on February 6, I would be attempting to encourage settlement in a reasonable number of cases – perhaps 20 or 30.”

It seems like Judge Wilson assumed too much. He gave the plaintiff attorneys too much credit. He overestimated their level of maturity. To his credit, though, he seems to be losing his patience, and it’s about time.

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