Issuing its opinion in DMT vs. TMH, a closely watched case that drew national attention, the Supreme Court of Florida today declared that a woman has constitutionally protected rights to raise a child created by artificial insemination using her ovum, with the fertilized ovum carried and the child born by her then-committed partner, and
Long before foreclosure lawsuits flooded Florida court dockets, chief judges here and throughout the country were fretting over how to deal with the even more daunting “asbestos-litigation crisis” [Amchem Products, Inc. v. Windsor, 521 U.S. 591, 597 (1997)] That ongoing and seemingly endless litigation has been flooding the courts since the 1960s and in the words of Justice Souter, “defies customary judicial administration.” Ortiz v. Fibreboard Corp., 527 U.S. 815 (1999).
Other mass torts (a/k/a toxic torts) have come and gone, but asbestos litigation – the first of the species – lives on. As long as it does, so will legislative and judicial efforts to control, limit, or end asbestos litigation.
Joining several other states, the Florida Legislature passed legislation aimed at curbing asbestos litigation in 2005. Asbestos plaintiff lawyers, who had lobbied hard against the legislation’s passage, challenged it in court almost immediately.
On Friday, July 8, 2011, the Florida Supreme issued its long awaited decision in several of those challenges, American Optical Corporation v. Spiewak, Nos. 08-1616, 08-1640, 08-1617, & 08-1639. The Court declared the law to be unconstitutional as applied to anyone whose claims had “accrued,” but had not gone to trial, prior to July 1, 2005.
The decision allows a group of plaintiffs to sue who could not have sued under the legislation. The question is how large that group might be. According to Adolfo Pesquera’s article in the DBR, some are suggesting that this decision will “open the floodgates.” But I have serious doubts about that.
As I read the decision, it won’t affect anyone who wasn’t diagnosed before the asbestos reform law went into effect on July 1, 2005. According to the Court, if you were diagnosed before that date, it was unconstitutional for the legislation to deprive you of your right to sue, because your claim had already accrued.
But when your claim accrued, the statute of limitations started running on your claims. The statute of limitations is 4 years. It’s been almost 6 years since July 1, 2005. So if you didn’t haven’t filed suit already, it would seem to be too late now to do so.
So I’m not sure that any new suits can be filed. And if other plaintiffs did file suit, their cases would presumably have been dismissed long ago under the auspices of the reform law. Unless they were stayed pending the Court’s decision in American Optical, it would too late to revive most of them now.
A more detailed analysis of the backdrop of the case and the court’s analysis follows.
Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals had harsh words for a foreclosing bank’s counsel in Jade Winds Association v. Citibank, N.A., No. 3D11-275, released on Wednesday, May 4, 2011.
The 3rd DCA not only reversed an order that had cancelled a foreclosure sale at the bank’s request, but called out the bank’s counsel for…