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April 2020

COVID-19 Court Closures & Restrictions In Key Asbestos Jurisdictions

April 3, 2020

The following will provide the latest update regarding court closures, discovery issues and trial dates in key asbestos jurisdictions. The status of Court closures per state, can be accessed here. If you have questions, please contact us and a Gordon & Rees lawyer will respond to your questions.

California

On March 23, 2020, California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye issued a statewide order suspending all jury trials in California's Superior Courts for 60 days (the 60 days runs from March 23 to May 22) and allowing courts to immediately adopt new rules to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chief Justice has since issued clarifications to her Order which confirm that all trials, preference cases included, have been continued for 60 days from the initial trial date and pre-trial deadlines are tied to the new trial dates. Her order did not restrict discovery and encourages the Bar and individual courts to explore methods to hold hearing, depositions, conferences and meeting through electronic means. Below are the specific rules of note which have been established by the Alameda, San Francisco and Los Angeles Superior Courts.

Alameda County Superior Courts:

  1. Courthouses are closed to the public through April 7, 2020. We expect this to be extended through May 3, 2020 pursuant to the recent extension of the stay at home order for Alameda County.
  2. March 17, 2020 through April 3, 2020, will be considered court holidays. Documents will not be received for filing during this time period.

Los Angeles Superior Courts: 

  1. As of March 23, 2020, and until further notice, the Clerk’s offices at all 38 courthouses will be closed. Most courthouses except the Beverly Hills & Catalina Courthouses will remain open for time-sensitive, essential hearings and matters, including civil ex parte proceedings.
  2. Clerk’s offices are closed, but drop boxes for filing are set up at the entrances to all courthouses.

San Francisco Superior Court:

March 18, 2020 to April 15, 2020, inclusive, are deemed a holiday for purposes of computing time for filing papers with the Court.

  1. The trial dates for all cases on the civil trial calendar with trial dates from Monday, March 23, 2020, through Friday, May 22, 2020 are vacated. The court will set a new trial date for each case which will be 60 days or more from the vacated trial date (new trial date).
  2. For all applicable cases, except where the dates to conduct discovery have passed, the last dates to conduct discovery and expert discovery and to file motions for summary judgment and summary adjudication are hereby vacated. Effective immediately, the last date to conduct discovery and expert discovery and to file motions for summary judgment and summary adjudication for every applicable case is based on the new trial date.
  3. The dates for mandatory settlement conferences in all applicable cases are hereby vacated. When the court resumes normal operations, the court will set new mandatory settlement conferences dates for all applicable cases.

USDC Northern District:

  1. No criminal or civil jury trials will be commenced before May 1, 2020. Any trial dates currently scheduled are vacated.
  2. All civil matters will be decided on the papers, or if the assigned judge believes a hearing is necessary, the hearing will be by telephone or videoconference.

If you need additional assistance, please contact Michael Pietrykowski.

Connecticut:

There are no special orders for asbestos. All civil trials have been suspended and the statute of limitations has also been suspended. Depositions are being coordinated for remote attendance, typically by video.

If you need additional assistance, please contact John Robinson.

Illinois:

Cook County
On April 3, 2020, Judge Claire McWilliams issued an order confirming that matters set for trial in April and May will instead proceed with a settlement conference during the week they are currently scheduled for trial. If those matters are not resolved, the Court may exercise its discretion to proceed to a hearing on the parties’ motions in limine, and the jury trial will then take place at the first available Asbestos Trial Call once emergency measures are no longer in effect. Motion calls in asbestos cases will continue to proceed telephonically or through videoconferencing.

If you need additional assistance, please contact Stephanie Jones and Hayes Ryan.

Madison County
Madison County Chief Judge, William Mudge, entered an Administrative Order on March 20, 2020 pursuant to the Illinois Governor’s stay at home order suspending all civil and criminal jury and non-jury trials and most other matters set within 30 days.

On March 25, 2020, Judge Stobbs, presiding over asbestos matters, issued an order stating that jury trials affected by the Chief Judge’s 30-day extension will be rescheduled for a date to be set later, either this summer or Fall 2020, as may be available. He further ordered parties to participate remotely at settlement conferences.

On March 30, 2020, Judge Mudge entered an additional order extending the Administrative order for an additional 30 days, to May 22. Pursuant to this latest order, no civil jury or non-jury trials will occur before May 22, 2020. None of the various orders have provided any guidance on case deadlines.

If you need additional assistance, please contact Stephanie Jones and Hayes Ryan.

St. Clair County:
Pursuant to March 23, 2020 Order of Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson, all civil and criminal jury trials, hearings, and status conferences set for the next 60 days are vacated and continued to a later date. No jury trials will be scheduled to begin within the next 60 days and jurors scheduled for April and May have been told not to report.

If you need additional assistance, please contact Beverly Bond.

Massachusetts:

Massachusetts State Court:
All civil jury trials postponed until April 21 as of now but the Massachusetts asbestos docket has postponed the March and April trial lists to a date to be determined. The June trial list will likely also be postponed due to backlog when social distancing guidelines change. Status and settlement conferences will be telephonic. Depositions will likely proceed remotely (and some are being scheduled at this time). Non-appearing pretrial workup deadlines remain in place.  

If you need additional assistance, please contact John Robinson.

Missouri:

City of St. Louis:
Pursuant to Administrative Orders entered by both the Missouri Supreme Court on March 22, 2020 and the Presiding Judge in the City of St. Louis on March 24, 2020, all in-person hearings, other than certain emergency matters, are suspended through at least April 17, 2020. Matters that can be handled by phone or without need for a hearing can still proceed, and each judge is making his or her own procedures for such things. No juries will be empaneled from March 30 to April 20, and all jury trials set during that time period are to be rescheduled to a later date. Generally, the judges are continuing all pending matters to a later date. Routine deadlines are not affected unless otherwise ordered by the judge.

If you need additional assistance, please contact Beverly Bond.

New York:

As it pertains to NYCAL, Justice Manuel Mendez is following the directives of the Chief Administrative Judge of the Courts, Lawrence Marks. Under Justice Marks’ administrative order everything is tolled until the courthouse reopens, including NYCAL rules on summary judgment motions. The only activities that will still continue are depositions, and discovery and trial readiness conference which will be conducted telephonically and overseen, as per course, by our Special Master, Shelley Olsen. When the NY Courts re-open, Justice Mendez will issue a trial schedule for all adjourned trials and a pre-trial conference schedule for newly transferred cases. Presently he is deciding motions that were submitted prior to the Court’s closure.

If you need additional assistance, please contact Erik DiMarco and Virginia Squitieri.

Rhode Island:

Judge Alice Gibney, who oversees the Rhode Island asbestos docket, has cancelled the bi-weekly asbestos status hearings until May 6, 2020. Judge Gibney will make herself available by telephone for any emergency matters that need to be addressed before that time. Rhode Island issued a 30 day continuance of all applicable deadlines and ordered all trials through April 17 as continued. Requests for extensions of applicable statute of limitations shall be entertained by the respective courts 30 calendar days from the attached order.

If you need additional assistance, please contact John Robinson.

Texas:

Unlike many states, Texas is not currently under state wide closure orders. However, jury trials are largely suspended through April in most counties. Dallas and Houston are both under shelter-in-place orders and have issued orders cancelling jury trials. In Houston, jury trials are suspended through March and it is widely expected the order will be extended early next week. Dallas has cancelled all jury trials until May 8. Nevertheless, the MDL, which sits in Houston but remands each case to the originating court for trial, continues operation remotely and is holding telephonic hearings every Friday.

If you need additional assistance, please contact Jason Irvin.

Please find individual state court closure and restriction information here.

Visit our COVID-19 Hub for ongoing updates.

Michael J. Pietrykowski