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Asbestos Ruling: Rhode Island is Not Canada



Restraint imposed on asbestos litigation today in a welcome ruling by the Rhode Island Supreme Court in Kedy v. A.W. Chesterton Co..

Thirty-nine Canadians filed suit in Rhode Island against U.S. companies licensed to do business there, alleging exposure to asbestos in Canada. The connection to Rhode Island was...well...we should be able to sue there. The issue in this appeal was whether the state would recognize the standard doctrine of forum non conveniens, that is, that the forum is simply not well suited to hear the case because neither the parties, witnesses nor other elements necessary to the trial are in Rhode Island.

Today the court agreed that the case should be dismissed under that doctrine, which it ruled was part of the state's "jurisprudential landscape." The court adopted a two-pronged test that takes into consideration the adequacy of an alternative forum if the case is dismissed in Rhode Island, and a balancing of private and public interests affected by the litigation. The opinion allows a case to be dismissed even if the alternative forum provides fewer remedies or other advantages for the plaintiff, and the court gave less weight to a plaintiff's choice of forum when it is motivated by forum-shopping objectives. A court may also consider the extent to which its own judicial system will be burdened by the inappropriate forum shopping.

The court's opinion is here.
The National Association of Manufacturers has submitted an amicus in the case, which is available here.
The American Tort Reform Association issued a news release praising the decision.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy
rmangual@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

 

Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.