** FOR PRINT *** Philadelphia asbestos docket a mix of local and national firms

John O'Brien Dec. 6, 2010, 7:12am

PHILADELPHIA (Legal Newsline) - Local law firms seem to make up the majority of Philadelphia's asbestos docket at the Complex Litigation Center, but some regional and national firms also have a presence in the city.

A list of all trials scheduled for 2011 shows only 10 different law firms will be trying cases in Philadelphia, where a process called "reverse bifurcation" is used. A jury decides damages in the first phase of the trial, and then determines if the defendant is liable in the second part.

Among the big-name law firms who have trials scheduled next year are the Law Offices of Peter Angelos, Baron & Budd and Weitz & Luxenberg.

Forty-three trials are set to take place. In Philadelphia, plaintiffs are grouped for trial by their law firm and their alleged illnesses.

"It's usually pretty much the same attorneys," said Stanley Thompson, executive director of the CLC. "It's the same players."

As of Oct. 3, there were 631 active asbestos cases at the CLC, which was designed to solve a backlog of more than 7,000 cases. Thompson says the amount of lawsuits filed by these attorneys stays steady at 200-250 every year.

Asbestos lawsuits are placed on a two-year trial schedule by the CLC, which currently oversees almost 4,800 lawsuits. Asbestos is the third-highest amount, behind hormone replacement therapy lawsuits and Yaz lawsuits.

Busiest on the asbestos front seems to be the Philadelphia-based firm Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown and Sandler, which has nine trials scheduled for next year. Sixty-nine plaintiffs make up those 10 trial groups.

Not far behind the Brookman firm is another local firm -- Paul, Reich & Myers. In eight scheduled trials next year, the firm is representing 45 plaintiffs.

Having an office in Philadelphia is part of a strategy for some of the firms. Philadelphia is one of eight locations for Peter Angelos in the region, and Brent Coon covers the nation with offices in places like Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, New Orleans, Houston and Beaumont, Texas.

Coon has three trials in Philadelphia next year, and Angelos has five. Angelos is the owner of Major League Baseball's Baltimore Orioles.

Dallas-based Baron & Budd, which also has offices in Miami and Los Angeles, has one trial scheduled for next year in Philadelphia.

New York-based Weitz & Luxenberg has three trials next year. the Locks Law Firm, which has offices in Cherry Hill, N.J., Philadelphia and New York, has four trials next year.

Other local firms with trials next year are Howard, Brenner & Nass (five), the Shein Law Center (four) and Cohen, Placitella & Roth (one).

One local firm, Kline & Specter, says the amount it is filing is shrinking. Lee Balefsky, head of the mass torts department, says the firm files only five-to-15 mesothelioma lawsuits each year.

One of the firm's founders, Shanin Specter, is the son of U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter.

"I don't have as many cases as I used to," Balefsky said. "I had some mesothelioma cases over the last couple years, but nothing that's on the trial list."

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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