The AP, Bloomberg, WSJ, and Forbes all have stories on Judge William Coleman vacating the $322 million verdict in the 2011 Smith County asbestos drilling mud case along with all other orders entered by Judge Eddie Bowen in the case. According to a Union Carbide assertion cited in the Forbes article, the plaintiff’s damages were—at most—$45,000 in future medical bills. Anyway you cut it, the verdict was ridiculous. 

The verdict landed Smith County on a Judicial Hellhole list. If there was a judicial enigma list, Smith County would be at the top of the list. On paper, you would expect Smith County juries to be ultra-conservative. But add local attorney Gene Tullos into the mix and you get a $322 million verdict for a plaintiff who—apparently—wasn’t hurt bad.

If there is a downside for Union Carbide, it is that the case is still pending in Smith County. Historically, the Mississippi Supreme Court has reversed and rendered appeals of mega-verdicts that it decides on the merits. It would be interesting to see the result of a trial with venue transferred to a neighboring county, like Simpson County.   

Prior posts on the case: