NEW YORK, Oct 6 (Reuters) - A Mississippi judge who
presided over a stunning $322 million asbestos verdict against
Union Carbide Corp earlier this year has been ordered to step aside over an apparent conflict of interest.
At the time it was handed down in May by a Mississippi
jury, the verdict was called the largest single-plaintiff
Two weeks later, Union Carbide argued that the verdict
should be thrown out because presiding Judge Eddie Bowen had
violated the Mississippi code of conduct. Judge Bowen failed to
disclose that his father was a plaintiff in asbestos cases,
including a settled case against Union Carbide, the company
said. What's more, the judge had made rulings that could affect
some of the claims his father had pending, the company said.
At trial, the judge made biased remarks against Union
Carbide and its co-defendant, Chevron Phillips Chemical,
according to the company.
The Mississippi Supreme Court, in an order filed on
Thursday, agreed with Union Carbide.
"We find that a reasonable person, knowing all of the
circumstances, would harbor doubts about Judge Bowen's
impartiality in this particular case," said the Supreme Court,
which ordered Bowen to recuse himself.
A message left for Bowen in his chambers in Raleigh,
Mississippi, wasn't immediately returned.
Allen Hossley, a lawyer for plaintiff Thomas Brown, didn't
return a message seeking comment.
Scot Wheeler, a spokesman for Union Carbide said in an
email that the company was "gratified" by the decision. "Since
UCC's motion was granted in its entirety, the Mississippi
Supreme Court will direct the new judge, once appointed, to
vacate the award," Wheeler said.
The case is Thomas C. Brown, Jr. v. Phillips 66, Civil
Action No. 2006-196, Raleigh, Mississippi.
For Thomas Brown:
Hossley Embry; Tullos & Tullos.
For Union Carbide: Forman Perry
Watkins Krutz & Tardy.
For Chevron Phillips Chemical: Adams and
(Reporting by Carlyn Kolker)
Follow us on Twitter: @ReutersLegal