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Three Eastern rails plan to challenge West Virginia's mass litigation process


CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Railway and Conrail Nov. 28 announced plans to file suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, seeking to stop West Virginia's mass litigation process, which railroad officials believe unfairly benefits out-of-state plaintiffs in asbestos-related cases.
Of 9,000 asbestos cases pending nationwide against the three railroads, 5,150 cases are before West Virginia courts, involving 4,440 plaintiffs who don't work, live or pay taxes in the state.
The three railroads, and American Premier Underwriters (formerly Penn Central Railroad), plan to invalidate the mass litigation process, which enables plaintiffs to consolidate asbestos-related civil cases against railroads and other parties.
West Virginia's Mass Litigation Panel and Procedure — a trial court rule established in 1999 — lumps together plaintiffs who work at different locations, in various jobs, during different times, and with diverse mitigating factors, and alleged exposures and injuries, thus depriving defendants a fair trial, rail officials claim in a prepared statement.
Rail officials also are concerned that consolidated cases tend to pressure railroads to settle and that West Virginia insufficiently gives rails a right to appeal verdicts.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 11/28/2001