The Supreme Court of the State of New Jersey provides clarity to litigants in asbestos litigation with respect to the proving of apportionment claims at trial.
On September 11, 2019 the Supreme Court of the State of New Jersey issued a decision providing clarity to litigants in asbestos litigation with respect to the proving of apportionment claims at trial. In Rowe v. Bell & Gossett Company, et al. the Supreme Court reversed a decision of the Appellate Division, which itself had reversed a post-trial decision of Judge Ana Viscomi. In Rowe defendant had been found liable for plaintiff's mesothelioma after a jury trial but used interrogatory responses and deposition transcripts from related cases to prove its apportionment claims against settled tortfeasors. The jury allocated 80 percent of the overall fault to these entities. Plaintiffs moved to set aside the verdict, arguing that these materials (which were admitted as statements against interest by the tortfeasors) were inadmissible hearsay and should not have been shown to the jury. The Appellate Division agreed and reversed Judge Viscomi's decision on the post-trial motion. The Supreme Court has now reinstated that decision, finding that these materials were in fact statements against the settling tortfeasors' interests when made. This is an important issue in New Jersey and the number of other states around the country where apportionment of fault to settled parties (or non-parties) is allowed, as plaintiffs' counsel have increasingly pushed back on this effective defense over the last few years. To read the decision, please download the file below.