The latest point of contention in a massive lawsuit against several Maryland insurance companies is whether the 10,000 plaintiffs will have separate trials or a single class action suit. Defendants opt for individual trials based upon the medical condition of each plaintiff, while the plaintiffs would like to see a more expedited class action lawsuit. The insurance companies in this case are being sued for misrepresentation of their level of asbestos coverage. The presiding judge is hoping to establish a trial date in the near future. According to the initial suit filed in May 2005, the insurers for the asbestos installer MCIC Inc. misrepresented the amount of insurance that company held during a 1994 $12.3 million settlement. Several issues have slowed the pace at which the suit was proceeding through the courts, such as the parties representing the plaintiffs and the process used in adjudicating the claims.
The defense lawyers contested the use of the same lawyers in the settlement negotiations from the 1994 case representing the plaintiffs again in the current suit. The new suit has roots in a case filed in the late 1980s against 15 defendants by 8,555 plaintiffs. By 1990, nine of the defendants agreed to a settlement leaving the other six, including MCIC Inc., to be found liable in a trial in 1992. During the appeal proceedings, it was discovered in a closed-door session between the lawyers and the judge that the insurance carried by MCIC Inc. was only $12 million. The plaintiffs settled for this amount, but by 2002, MCIC Inc. was found to have had more coverage than the $12 million it claimed in the 1994 settlement. Only when other litigation brought to light the additional coverage of MCIC Inc. did the company’s lawyers admit it, the 2004 lawsuit alleges.