Two courts deny bids to halt trial

February 17, 1992|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer

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 about 8,560 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 ChieJudge Robert C. Murphy.

The decisions mean that the cases will proceed as scheduled tomorrow before Judge Marshall A. Levin.

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