N.C. Industrial Commission Issues Opinion on 151 Continental Tire Asbestosis Workers’ Compensation Matters

Continental Tire recently resolved 151 workers’ compensation cases involving asbestosis claims. The cases have spanned nearly a decade and were spurred on by the North Carolina Industrial Commission Deputy Commissioner James C. Gillen’s 2016 opinion citing the lack of exposure to any employee of asbestos or talc at the Continental Tire plant. The matter was appealed to the full North Carolina Industrial Commission, which recently came to the same conclusion as Deputy Commissioner Gillen. These opinions will be applied to each of the 151 matters.

Continental Tire was represented by Smith Moore Leatherwood attorneys Jeri L. Whitfield and Lisa Kaminski Shortt.

Continental Tire was facing a plethora of workers’ compensation cases, all claiming asbestosis from working in a tire plant with insulated steam pipes. The company offered to submit to a full trial using the five Bellwether plaintiffs selected by Plaintiff’s counsel, allowing the opinion in the Bellwether cases to apply to the remaining claims. The trial began in February 2011 and involved a mini trial involving Vermont talc allegations. The trial focused on scientific and medical evidence to prove that employees at Continental Tire were not exposed to levels of asbestos capable of causing disease.  In 2015, the original Deputy Commissioner overseeing the case retired prior to issuing an opinion, and once in front of the newly appointed Deputy Commissioner Gillen, Smith Moore Leatherwood distilled 37 days of trial and more than 70 depositions into a two day closing argument on behalf of Continental.

“Defending an asbestosis workers’ compensation matter is not an easy task in North Carolina,” said Whitfield. “We were initially contacted by Continental Tire in 2009. After a long road and facing a few challenges along the way, we are pleased to receive these opinions from the Commission.”

Whitfield has extensive experience in litigating complex occupational disease claims before the North Carolina Industrial Commission and appellate courts. Her civil practice includes handling toxic tort and asbestos-related litigation and premises liability claims before the trial and appellate courts.

In addition to her workers’ compensation practice, Shortt handles a variety of cases before the trial and appellate courts.  Shortt is a partner in the Smith Moore Leatherwood Health Care and Litigation Practice Groups. She formerly practiced as a registered nurse and has five years of experience in cardiac surgery intensive care nursing. She works with hospitals and other health care providers to identify, respond to, and resolve compliance issues and keep their businesses running.

Each result depends on a variety of factors unique to each case.  Past success does not indicate the likelihood of success in any future legal representation.

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