LA County Supervising Judge Emilie Elias enacted requirements that plaintiffs disclose all asbestos exposure facts during discovery, regardless of whether exposure facts are submitted to trust funds. The reforms are consistent with disclosure requirements in other jurisdictions, and arrive in the wake of the increasing magnitude of asbestos trusts, estimated in the tens of billions of dollars.
The defense presented extensive evidence that the practice of inconsistent fact presentation to separate compensation systems was local and national, and undermined California apportionment of liability law. The defense sought an Order designed to enhance transparency and consistency of facts presented to judges and trusts. On May 27, 2015, Judge Elias ruled:
“The Court finds that facts relating to a plaintiff’s and/or decedent’s alleged exposures to asbestos are not privileged and are discoverable. Plaintiffs are required to disclose all facts relating to all of their alleged exposures to asbestos, whether to the products or premises attributable to named defendants, or to bankrupt or other entities, and regardless of whether those facts have been, or ever will be, included in a claim to a third party for the purpose of obtaining compensation for an asbestos-related injury. Plaintiffs may not object or refuse to produce information relating to exposure facts in response to appropriate discovery requests from defendants for the reason that no claims have been or will be made based on such facts or because such facts may also appear in otherwise privileged documents such as signed affidavits or unsubmitted bankruptcy trust claim forms.”
Christopher Stevens bought the motion for the defense as the lead advocate for the LA County Defense Committee throughout the proceedings. Mr. Stevens noted that “the bankruptcy trust disclosure provisions and the new standard interrogatories of the revised CMO are consistent with the disclosure obligations that parties to all other forms of litigation already have, will help curb abuse, ensure that the rules of discovery are followed, and allow for all relevant facts to be considered by the Court before entering judgment.”
The defense briefs, order, and exhibits: