Judge Rules Against Asbestos Company That Destroyed Incriminating Documents

Mesothelioma Attorneys Win Judgement Against Company

In a case that may have far-reaching effects in future asbestos lawsuits,  Top mesothelioma lawyers  successfully convinced the judge for the New York City Asbestos Litigation (NYCAL) that an asbestos company’s destruction of corporate documents should be sanctioned.

Judge Peter H. Moulton is the presiding judge for NYCAL, which oversees all asbestos litigation in New York City and the surrounding New York counties. On November 5th he ruled that J-M Manufacturing Company, a defendant in a mesothelioma lawsuit filed by Richard Warren, had intentionally destroyed evidence that they had a duty to preserve, and that as a result Mr. Warren’s mesothelioma attorney was able to provide the jury with an instruction that they should assume that the missing documents would have supported Warren’s case against them.

Mesothelioma Lawsuit Reveals Company Was Gross Negligence In It’s Handing of Documents

Mr. Warren is now deceased. His original lawsuit claiming that he had developed mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure during his employment was filed against several companies, including J-M Manufacturing, where he worked with asbestos cement pipe. During the discovery process it was determined that the company had engaged in a “massive destruction of documents” in 1990 and again in 1997 – documents that may have been self-incriminating.  Warren’s mesothelioma attorneys asked the judge for a ruling of “spoliation”, a legal term that describes “the intentional destruction, mutilation, alteration or concealment of evidence, usually a document. If proved, spoliation may be used to establish that the evidence was unfavorable to the party responsible.”

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Though J-M Manufacturing defended itself by arguing that it could not have anticipated litigation against them until they had been served with a complaint or had notice of a claim, the judge found that the company had known of both the hazards posed by asbestos exposure and the long latency period connected with mesothelioma as early as 1983. The judge ruled the loss and destruction of the documents was “gross negligence” and done in bad faith, pointing out that the company’s own internal document retention policy contradicted their actions regarding the asbestos-related evidence. Judge Moulton’s decision provides Mr. Warren’s mesothelioma attorney with the ability to give the jury in his case the “strongest adverse inference” about the document destruction. It also will give mesothelioma attorneys in future cases an important precedent that they can use in future cases in which asbestos companies attempt to minimize their liability by destroying documents.