Continuing a series of recent legal victories for the tobacco industry, a Jefferson County, Miss., circuit court judge yesterday dismissed all claims by Owens Corning seeking reimbursement of funds the asbestos manufacturer paid to former asbestos workers.
In dismissing Owens Corning''s claims, Judge Lamar Pickard affirmed the recommendation of Special Master Robert Sneed.
In his report, Sneed recommended that the court find, "that under Mississippi law, and the prevailing law in virtually all jurisdictions, Owens Corning is prohibited by the remoteness doctrine from recovering from the Tobacco Defendants for an ''indirect injury'' sustained by Owens Corning."
Owens Corning, an asbestos manufacturer, had asserted various claims based largely on the theory that they had "overpaid" injury claims brought against them by asbestos workers.
Owens Corning claimed that tobacco use, not asbestos exposure, was the cause of the alleged personal injuries.
The company further claimed that failure to warn asbestos workers who smoked of the substantially increased risk of developing lung cancer caused Owens Corning both to pay for more lung cancer claims, and to pay more on individual claims.
"We believe the recommendation by the special master and the decision by the judge are correct and consistent with the overwhelming weight of authority from virtually every jurisdiction that has considered third-party claims against the tobacco industry," said Daniel Donahue, senior vice president and deputy general counsel for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
Donahue noted that earlier this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dismissed a similar suit by a union health-and-welfare fund because these types of claims against the tobacco industry are, "too remote, contingent, derivative and indirect to survive."
by Virginia Sutcliffe