Second Ruling Against Asbestos Victims Handed Down by Ohio Supreme Court

For the second time in as many weeks, victims of asbestos and their family members were disappointed by a ruling from the Ohio Supreme Court. The first ruling from the week of October 13th added another requirement to being able to file an asbestos claim even for those submitted prior to a 2004 law change. The 2004 law stated that claims would need a medical expert’s testimony that the plaintiff suffered from an asbestos-caused medical problem rather than that they showed signs of asbestos exposure . The ruling that the standards of the 2004 law could be applied to cases filed prior to that time resulted in the dismissing of over 30,000 asbestos lawsuits in the Cuyahoga county court system. Retroactive applicability is not always supported by the Ohio Supreme Court.

On 22 October, justices ruled 5-2 that a 1977 decision regarding the liability of suppliers as well as manufactures of asbestos-containing products could not be applied to asbestos exposure that applied before 1977. In the recent decision, the Ohio Supreme Court threw out a lawsuit by a widow for the death of her husband, Joseph DiCenzo. He passed away in 1993 from poor health caused by asbestos exposure. DiCenzo worked for Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Co.

Among the 80 defendants listed on the widow’s lawsuit was George V. Hamilton Inc., which was the supplier of asbestos pipe fittings for Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Co. According to the Supreme Court, this lawsuit was a result of asbestos exposure prior to the 1977 ruling. It did not pass any of the three criterion to determine if the 1977 ruling could be applied retroactively. The majority opinion of the Court was that suppliers of asbestos-containing products, such as George V. Hamilton Inc., could not have anticipated paying asbestos victims when they were supplying businesses from the 1950s through the 1970s. One of the dissenting justices, however, said the 22 October ruling “exempts an entire class of defendants from strict tort liability.”