Asbestos defendants have increasingly voiced complaints about the judge in charge of South Carolina’s asbestos docket as she has overruled jury verdicts, ordered simultaneous trials in multiple counties and named an insurance company the “alter ego” of a long-defunct contracting company, according to a report in Legal Newsline. The complaints culminated with Zurich Insurance filing a mandamus petition with the South Carolina Supreme Court this week seeking the recusal of Judge Jean Toal.
Toal was appointed the state’s asbestos judge in 2017, Since then she has issued a string of decisions that favored plaintiffs. In one 2018 case, she stripped the bankrupt Covil insulation-contracting company of most of its defenses after Covil’s lawyers were unable to produce documents they said were destroyed in a fire. Despite the seemingly devastating sanctions, the jury ruled in Covil’s favor. Months later, Judge Toal invoked South Carolina’s unusual “13th juror” doctrine to overturn the verdict and order a new trial.