U.S. judge, appeals court reject attempts to block start of trial


A federal judge and the Maryland Court of Appeals refused separate attempts Friday to block tomorrow's scheduled start of a consolidated asbestos trial that involves 8,600 cases in Baltimore Circuit Court.

Senior Judge Edward S. Northrup of the U.S. District Court denied a motion filed by one of the defendants, Toledo-based Owens-Illinois Inc., which argued that the consolidated trial of thousands of cases could not result in a binding judgment and that the process allowing punitive damages violates due process of law.

Judge Northrup said in a harsh opinion that the company had had a chance to challenge the consolidated trial in a state court "instead of running to another forum like a child hoping to play one parent off against the other."

He said the giant glassmaker's argument that the matter is a federal issue was "shaky at best" and said Owens-Illinois' last-minute motion filed last week was an attempt to "thwart Maryland state justice" with its appeal.

Meanwhile, the Maryland Court of Appeals denied a motion by five companies to delay the start of the trial.

The companies were Armstrong World Industries, GAF Corp., Quigley Corp., U.S. Gypsum Co. and Owings-Corning Fiberglas.

"We reviewed it. We discussed it. We denied it," said Chief Judge Robert C. Murphy.

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