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October 14, 2002
Volume 80, Number 41
CENEAR 80 41 p. 15
ISSN 0009-2347


JUSTICE

Supreme Court Declines To Hear Asbestos Case

DAVID HANSON

In one of its first actions in its 2002–03 term, the Supreme Court refused to consider the constitutionality of an asbestos class-action lawsuit, a review sought by 250 firms, including a number of chemical companies (C&EN, Sept. 16, page 9).

The decision allows a West Virginia trial involving more than 8,000 plaintiffs from as many as 35 states to go forward. The companies maintained that, because the case brings together plaintiffs from many states with dissimilar problems and involves many different kinds of companies, it should not be considered a class action.

During this term, the Supreme Court is expected to hear several other cases of interest to the chemical community. Scheduled for argument this week is a complex case that involves a jurisdictional dispute between the state and federal courts over a class-action insecticide exposure lawsuit brought by farmers in Louisiana against Syngenta Crop Protection and other companies.

In another case, the court will rule on how far states can go in regulating drug prices. Maine has a prescription drug program for all noninsured persons that requires companies to negotiate lower prices, a law the pharmaceutical industry claims illegally sets prices. In still another case, in which Latin American banana workers have sued Dole Food Co. and others over their exposure to the pesticide dibromochloropropane, Dole is claiming that two chemical companies owned by the state of Israel should pay part of the damages because they made some of the pesticide. The court will rule on how much legal responsibility a foreign state must assume if it owns a company being sued.



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