I received a report yesterday of a $322 million jury verdict in a Smith County asbestos drilling mud case. I have few details to report at this time.

I believe that Union Carbide was the defendant. The verdict consisted of $22 million in compensatory damages and $300 million in punitive damages.

Allen Hossley of Texas was reportedly the plaintiff’s lawyer. No word yet on whether plaintiff also brought in Gene Tullos of Raleigh to "Ole Shep" the defendants in closing.

Forman Perry of Jackson was reportedly involved in the defense. The only attorney’s name that I’ve heard is Marcy Croft. Given how big defense firms staff and try cases, I doubt that Croft first chaired the trial because she was admitted to practice in 1998. I suspect that a more experienced lawyer first chaired the trial. Who was it?

I hear that "national counsel" tried the case for the defense. That typically means a lawyer from outside Mississippi. I’m not sure that there is a venue in the state where that would be a worse idea than Smith County.

I assume that Judge Eddie Bowen was the trial court judge.

My Take:

I don’t know what drilling mud is, but it’s my new practice specialty.

Smith County is an odd venue. On the surface it looks like it would be real conservative like Rankin or Simpson County. But underneath the surface it is very dangerous for defendants.

  • I am not sure which type of case this was, but drilling mud cases are typically either asbestos cases or groundwater contamination cases.

  • Philip Thomas

    This was an asbestos drilling mud case. I am updating the post.

  • Terry Jenkins

    I believe there were 2 defendants – Chevron and Union Carbide
    Both had Texas lawyers as lead counsel
    Gene Tullos was on the plaintiff’s side and 4 of his clients were on the jury
    The Judge refused to kick them off the jury

  • “it’s my new practice specialty.” Good one.
    A case that was potentially this big, and their jury research, mock-trialing, or whatever they do to prepare for a monster trial didn’t tell them not to try the case against Mr. Gene in Smith County? I would have consulted with them and told them that. For gas money.

  • Clarence, for some reason defendants just dont get the fact that out of town defense lawyers aren’t effective in many Mississippi venues.
    I remember an old story about Mr. Gene. He was trying a case in Smith County and the defendant’s attorney had the audacity/stupidity to have a silver tray and silver water pitcher on the corner of the counsel table.
    After lunch, the jury returned to see the silver on the defense’s table and two mason jars of tea on Mr. Gene’s side.
    The defendant lost that case well before the jury ever saw the silver or the mason jars, but it just highlights how insensitive some defendants are.

  • Curtis

    I observed the trial the last couple of days. Well deserved plaintiffs verdict. The 322 million verdict represents the largest asbestos verdict ever!

  • injustice4yall

    Phillip,
    Marcy knows better than this.
    I would guess that the idiot outside counsel does now too.
    This is Gene’s backyard, and you could bring in Gerry Spence and still get your ass kicked. They are not corrupt or stupid, but he has credibility with these people as his family has lived there for generations.
    He has earned their trust by the live he leads and example he sets. You and I don’t have any credibilty with the people of Smith county because we haven’t earned it.
    Someone complained of former clients on the jury or current clients (patients. Well is ok with the Supreme Court in small towns, at lesat when they render defense verdicts. (Read last years opinions)Unless, they change their mind.
    If caps are in place the verdict in under 2 million any way unless it has punitives.
    I had a guy try to hire me on a property dispute in Smith county. I think it was a Lake or something. I ask who was on the other side, and he said Gene Tullos. I told him he needed to go to Gene’s Office set down with him and work it out or he would pay dearly. He said we was right and didn’t want to settle and declined my advice. (It sounded like close call to me.)I ran into him few years later, and he made it point to tell me how he wished he would have taken my advise, paid a ton in defense cost and got hit with huge verdict too.
    Which leads me to my favorite Gene Tullos Stories.
    Gene has a big case he wants to try and there are these Jackson lawyers in front of him fighting over some BS claim. He finally ask what do you need to settle this case, the the one lawyer goes on for five minutes then says $3000 or something. At once the other Jackson lawyer jumps up and says I told you my client will never pay a nickle more than $2500, blah blah balh. Gene pulls $500.00 dollars out of his wallet gives it to one guy and says here, now go home.
    At the end of a two day trial, where a big Jackson firm send a lowly associate to get slaughtered, Gene does his closing argument, then he tells the Court as they were aware he has a another engagement. The young lawyer doesn’t know what to do so he objects thinking we will have to give his closing the next day, when Gene puts his hand on his shoulder and says “Son it’s OK I am going to just leave them with you”
    I don’t know if these stories are true or not but you get the point. You dont pull on Superman’s Cape, dont spit into the wind, and don’t mess around with Gene, especially not in Smith County.
    Snake Farm, and Allsnake I hope you are getting this message and you had better treat those people fairly on those tornado claims, cause all those millions of pages of Docs I have on you from your Defense whore engineers like Rimkus, and Haggee are already at Gene’s disposal. Those are all his clients, and the verdict will be billions not millions after the jury gets to see all these hot docs.
    On second though please screw them please. I promise to put “In Good Hands Now” on boat I buy with some of verdict money.
    The defense has the whole coast, Tupelo. Oxford, Hattiesburg, Merdidan, Rankin, Madison, etc where you get defense verdicts on drunk drivers running over little girls and ramming into people at stop lights. (True cases)But there are still a few places were the defense mantra doesnt play, and this is one of those few isolated places.
    May God bless them all.

  • Valerie

    Mike Terry from Corpus Christi, Texas was counsel for Union Carbide, to my understanding. The other defendant was ConocoPhillips. Guess Mike has gotten to accustomed to Texas law and Texas juries.

  • Jose

    Marcy is an excellent attorney — I worked with her for many years during the asbestos heyday. She’s not half bad looking either. ;)

  • blowery

    I think they ship in jurors from Fayette to sit on Smith Co trials….