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In re Collins

ELR Citation: 31 ELR 20311
Nos. No. 00-1009, 233 F.3d 809/(3d Cir., 12/01/2000)

The court denies individuals' petition for a writ of mandamus directing a judicial panel on multidistrict litigation to remand the individuals' punitive damages claims for asbestos exposure for trial together with their personal injury claims. When the panel remanded the individuals' claims to the transferor courts, it withheld the individuals' requests for punitive damages but allowed the compensatory personal injury claims to proceed to trial. The court first holds that the panel has the authority to separate claims before remand, and requests for punitive damages fall under the definition of "claims." Although a demand for punitive damages does not stand alone, it is not simply a component of a claim inseparable from the whole. A request for punitive damages is similar to a derivative claim and may properly be characterized as a separate but dependent claim for relief that must be supported by independent allegations and proof. Moreover, Congress granted substantial authority to the panel to decide how the cases under its jurisdiction should be coordinated. In addition, the public policy underlying the practice of severing punitive damages supports adopting the panel's interpretation. The resources available to persons injured by asbestos are steadily being depleted. Therefore, it is responsible public policy to give priority to compensatory claims over punitive damage windfalls.

Counsel for Petitioners
Alan B. Rich
Baron & Budd
3102 Oak Lawn Ave., Ste. 1100, Dallas TX 75219
(214) 521-3605

Counsel for Respondent
Hubert A. Crouch III
Crouch & Inabnett
2300 Fountain Place
1445 Ross Ave., Dallas TX 75202
(214) 922-7100

Before Barry and Rosenn, JJ.