Panel Hearing Arguments Over Plaintiffs’ Right to Claim Punitive Damages in Asbestos Litigation in New York City

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Helen Jones
Executive Vice President

A panel for New York’s Appellate Division, First Department heard arguments on June 17, 2015, over the matter of whether or not plaintiffs should have the right to argue for punitive damages before the New York City Asbestos Litigation court (NYCAL). As of 1996, an order, which was executed in order to expedite cases, has been in place barring such claims for that court. In 2014, the head of NYCAL, Justice Shirley Heitler, granted a motion allowing a plaintiff to make claims for punitive damages. Justice Heitler’s justification was that she could not understand why victims of asbestos exposure making claims in NYCAL could not make the same claim for punitive damages which every other jurisdiction in New York allows. The 2014 ruling was appealed which has led to the arguments before the Appellate Division. If the Appellate Division affirms Justice Heitler’s decision it could have substantial ramifications for over 2,000 plaintiffs who currently have cases pending in NYCAL.

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