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Va. Supreme Court stands by decision in Bristow asbestos case

The Supreme Court of Virginia has rejected a request to take a second look at a widely criticized decision that barred an appeal of a $9 million verdict based on improper assignments of error.

Lawyers from both sides of the personal injury bar raised concerns about the decision in John Crane Inc. v. Bristow (VLW 013-6-074). In an unpublished order in October, the court said the defendant lost its chance to appeal the verdict because it failed to articulate the proper legal standard.

The court had only recently redefined the applicable standard, in a decision published after the defendant’s petition for appeal was filed.

The defendant – manufacturer John Crane Inc. – asked the court to revisit its ruling, saying the decision threatened to diminish public confidence in the legal process. In a Jan. 21 order, the court denied the John Crane petition for rehearing.

At issue was the proper measure of causation in mesothelioma cases, in which asbestos is blamed for causing a fatal form of cancer that often appears many years after exposure.

The court announced a new causation standard last January and then faulted John Crane for positing its case as a choice between two other standards.

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