San Francisco Superior Court considers streamlining asbestos cases
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
In response to complaints by plaintiffs’ attorneys that asbestos cases are moving too slowly through the court system, San Francisco Superior Court Presiding Judge James J. McBride will hold a hearing today to take comments on a proposal that would make the system more efficient. There are almost 1,700 active asbestos–about two-thirds of California’s asbestos cases–have been filed in San Francisco.
Today’s hearing will take comment on a draft general order that would create an Asbestos Case Management Department. Under the proposal, beginning in January all pre-trial motions in asbestos cases would be noticed and heard in the new department, with a case management conference to be scheduled within 180 days.
“We want to increase our ability to send a case to trial at the time set for trial and eliminate the pattern of repeated continued trial dates,” McBride said. “We want to make sure that cases set for trial are ready for trial, and that cases that should settle before trial do so before we call in a large panel of jurors.” Court officials say last year asbestos cases consumed 45 percent of all civil jurors in San Francisco Superior Court.
McBride has assigned Judge Harold Kahn to oversee the asbestos department. Across the San Francisco Bay, Alameda County Superior Court already has an asbestos department in place.