Friday, July 28, 2017
C.A. Affirms Defense Judgment in Last of Lockheed Cases
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district yesterday affirmed Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John A. Torribio’s grant of summary judgment to defendants Exxon Mobil Corporation and Union Oil Company of California, in the last of the Lockheed Litigation Cases.
Writing for Div. Three, Acting Justice Michael Johnson noted that between 1986 and 1994, more than 600 current and past employees of Lockheed Corporation sued over exposure to chemicals at its plants, with five trials and one retrial taking place. The courthouse door was essentially slammed shut to the last group of plaintiffs—comprised of 363 persons—based on previous rulings as to the inadequate showing of expert evidence concerning causation.
“We conclude the application of collateral estoppel complied with due process because all plaintiffs had notice that the trial court’s causation rulings would be binding in future proceedings and the remaining plaintiffs were adequately represented by the plaintiffs whose claims were adjudicated to a final judgment,” Johnson wrote.
The barring of expert testimony in support of the remaining plaintiffs’ cases goes back to a Sept. 12, 2002 ruling that a Dr. Daniel Teitelbaum could not testify on causation. Torribio found that the “opinions expressed by the plaintiffs’ expert are based on legally insufficient scientific data” and ordered Teitelbaum “barred from expressing any opinions” on issues relating to the chemicals’ propensities in the present trial “and insofar as they may arise in future trials.”
On Oct. 18, 2002, plaintiffs’ counsel announced that without the expert testimony, the case could not proceed, and a judgment of dismissal was entered. The plaintiffs appealed, and the Court of Appeal affirmed.
The final group of plaintiffs, suing the two remaining defendants, designated new experts. However, Torribio ruled on Sept. 8, 2014: “The plaintiffs’ papers do not disclose what new and different scientific studies were relied on by the plaintiffs’ new experts. Without this information, the court is only able to presume new scientific information has not been developed since the law of the case ruling and order made herein.”
On Jan. 16, 2015, summary judgment was entered in favor of the defendants.
Johnson noted that before Torribio made his ruling on Sept. 12, 2002, he advised all plaintiffs of his tentative decision to bar the testimony and offered them the opportunity to be heard.
The procedures Torribio followed, Johnson said, were “reasonably calculated to ensure plaintiffs had a fair opportunity to present all evidence and every argument they could muster to establish a foundation for their expert’s general causation opinion.”
The case is Lockheed Litigation Cases, B262820. It was not certified for publication.
Martin N. Buchanan was teamed with Robert W. Finnerty of Girardi | Keese in representying the plaintiffs. David M. Axelrad and Shane H. McKenzie of Horvitz & Levy, along with Jason Levin of Steptoe & Johnson acted for the defendants.
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