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Asbestos-Superior Court Grants In Camera Review Of Bankruptcy Trust Claims Forms To Determine Discoverability

In ruling on defendant's motion for reconsideration, the Rhode Island Superior Court has held it will do an in camera review of plaintiff's bankruptcy trust claims forms to determine if they are discoverable to support defendant's theory that the forms may contradict plaintiff's decedent's testimony about exposure to its products.  However, the Court affirmed its prior ruling that the claims forms are not discoverable to show decendent's exposure to defendant's products was not a substantial causative factor in the development of his disease.

This is the most recent ruling in a fiercely contested case between the worker's wife and the lone remaining defendant, Crane Co.  The Court had previously held that the bankruptcy claims forms were not discoverable to dispute whether exposure to Crane's products was a substantial factor in the development of the decedent's mesothelioma.  The said that analysis was to be done without regard to the amount of exposure decedent had to other products. 

In its reconsideration motion, Crane added the additional argument that the claims forms may contradict the decedent's testimony about his exposure to Crane products and thus, essentially, could be used to impeach his testimony in that regard.  The Court said this was a legitimate reason to seek discovery of the documents.  However, it was reluctant to order the discovery without seeing what kind of information the forms contained.  Accordingly, it ordered plaintiff to provide the forms to it for an in camera review. 

Sweredoski v. Alfa Laval, Inc., P.C. 2011-1544, slip opinion (R.I. Super. Nov. 18, 2013) 

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