New York trial court reverses $11 million meso verdict

From Westlaw Journal Asbestos: A New York trial court judge has set aside an $11 million verdict and granted judgment for defendant Ford Motor Co. after finding no foundation for admitting testimony by the plaintiffs’ experts.

“Evidence of [the plaintiff’s] ‘regular’ exposure to brakes, clutches or gaskets sold or distributed by defendant during his work life, absent any quantification of the exposure, is insufficient to constitute a scientific expression of his exposure,” Justice Barbara Jaffe of the New York Supreme Court said in an April 13 order.

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Supreme Court hears argument on debtor’s right to appeal bankruptcy plan denials

By Ken Bradley, Senior Legal Writer, Westlaw Journals

From Westlaw Journal Bankruptcy:  The U.S. Supreme Court heard argument April 1 about whether the Bankruptcy Code allows direct appeals by a debtor from the denial of a Chapter 13 plan.

“The potential ramifications for Chapter 11 reorganizations could not be greater,” said Rob Nies, a bankruptcy attorney with Wolff & Samson.

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Bank seeks to undo plan allowing Chapter 11 debtor to keep property

From Westlaw Journal Bankruptcy: A Chapter 11 plan that allows a debtor to retain partial ownership of her medical practice should not have been confirmed because an unsecured creditor will receive payments for only part of its claim, a bank argues in a federal appellate court brief.

The plan “violates the absolute-priority rule as it permits [the debtor] to retain certain non-exempt assets while not paying her unsecured creditors in full,” unsecured creditor Heritage Bank says in March 5 brief filed with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Washington federal judge won’t let boiler assembler out of meso case

From Westlaw Journal Asbestos: A federal judge in Tacoma, Wash., has refused to dismiss Fraser’s Boiler Service Inc. from a mesothelioma lawsuit, finding a fact dispute on whether the company and the U.S. Navy failed to warn a Navy seaman about the dangers of asbestos exposure.

“This is significant because of the role Fraser’s Boiler Service played at civilian shipyards in the Seattle in the 1960s and 1970s,” said plaintiff’s attorney Brian F. Ladenburg of Bergman Draper Ladenburg Hart.

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Federal judge finds Tennessee’s post-petition tax ‘penalty’ unconstitutional

From Westlaw Journal Bankruptcy: A federal bankruptcy judge has ruled a Tennessee law that imposed a 6 percent “penalty” on delinquent property taxes cannot be enforced, finding it unconstitutionally circumvents federal bankruptcy law.

In a Feb. 26 opinion U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Randal S. Mashburn of the Middle District of Tennessee held that the 6 percent in additional fees tacked on to the 12 percent interest already being assessed was indeed an impermissible penalty under the U.S. Constitution and federal law.

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Supreme Court hears argument over attorney fee dispute

From Westlaw Journal Bankruptcy: The U.S. Supreme Court heard argument Feb. 25 over whether Asarco LLC must pay the law firm Baker Botts $5 million for defending its initial claim for attorney fees after representing the mining company in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The law firm may be in for “some tough sledding” in trying to recover the fees for defending its fee application, said bankruptcy attorney Michael Fletcher of Frandzel Robins Bloom & Csato, who is not involved in the case.

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Bankruptcy lawyers ask Supreme Court to allow appeals of plan denials

By Ken Bradley, Senior Legal Writer, Westlaw Journals

From Westlaw Journal Bankruptcy: Debtors in Chapter 13 bankruptcies should be allowed to appeal when a court denies confirmation of their payment plans, consumer attorneys say in an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Allowing creditors to appeal confirmation orders while denying debtors the right to appeal the denial of confirmation would systemically disadvantage one set of parties to bankruptcy cases without achieving any significant policy benefits,” the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys says in a Feb. 1 filing.

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Asarco asks Supreme Court to affirm win in attorney fee dispute

From Westlaw Journal Bankruptcy: Asarco LLC, which emerged from bankruptcy following the largest fraudulent-transfer judgment in Chapter 11 history, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm a ruling that denied its counsel $5 million in compensation they are seeking for defending their initial claim for attorney fees.

The Bankruptcy Code “hardly allow[s] compensation for work that is adverse to the estate and benefits only the professional, at the direct expense of the estate,” the copper mining company says in a Jan. 23 response brief filed with the high court.

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Supreme Court hears argument on bankruptcy judges’ authority

From Westlaw Journal Bankruptcy: The U.S. Supreme Court heard argument Jan. 14 in a case expected to clarify the power of bankruptcy judges to make final judgments in many disputes they regularly rule on.

“Although [it] is a consumer Chapter 7 case, the implications of the court’s decision very well may impact Chapter 11 cases and business bankruptcies, large and small, with equal effect,” said Joseph Sgroi, a partner and leader of the bankruptcy group at Honigman Miller Schwartz & Cohn, who is not involved in the case.

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Washington federal judge keeps Crane, Carrier in meso suit

From Westlaw Journal Asbestos: A federal judge in Seattle has partly denied and partly granted motions by Crane Co. and Carrier Corp. for summary judgment in a lawsuit in which a former Navy sailor alleges he developed mesothelioma from exposure to the defendants’ asbestos-containing products.

Plaintiff Richard Nelson, who served on the USS Kitty Hawk from 1961 to 1964, raised sufficient evidence that he was exposed to the two companies’ products to send the questions to a jury, U.S. District Judge James L. Robart of the Western District of Washington said in a Dec. 9 order.

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