2006 was a very good year. After being besieged with thousands of welding fume lawsuits over the past three years, 2006 brought a much welcomed change in momentum. The industry won all six welding fume cases tried to juries in 2006 (three in the MDL, three in state courts) bringing the total count to 16 wins and only one loss.
The mounting trial losses and growing body of scientific evidence refuting any link between exposure to welding fumes and neurological injury, has plaintiffs on the ropes. As a result, the trend has been reversed. After three consecutive years of growth, the number of claims in litigation is down significantly from this time last year. Plaintiffs have moved to dismiss more than 3,100 cases from the MDL alone. When final, those dismissals will reduce the number of cases pending in the MDL by 36%.
Perhaps more importantly, the first seven cases the plaintiffs selected as bellwether cases for trial in the MDL did not result in a single jury victory. The three that were tried in the MDL resulted in defense verdicts (Solis, Goforth, Quinn). Three were dismissed after serious questions were raised regarding the credibility of the claims. The remaining case settled out of court.
The results of these bellwether cases is telling. Despite more than 10,000 cases to choose from, the best cases plaintiffs could find weren’t enough to convince a jury to award damages. The fact that the Morgan, Landry and Peabody cases would even be considered for bellwether treatment alone speaks to the quality of these case. As the Notice of Diagnosis and intensive discovery process continues, defendants expect the numbers of cases in the MDL to continue to drop.
There are two broad conclusions to be drawn after three years of litigating welding fume claims: (1) there is still no credible scientific evidence linking PD or parkinsonism to exposure to welding fumes; and (2) the number of truly sick welders appears to be exceedingly small. Of course, the former explains the later.