Allegations of “Information and Belief” Interrogatory Answers Insufficient to Overcome Summary Judgment Supreme Court of the State of New York, Fifth Judicial District, May 23, 2018

NEW YORK — The decedent Julia Sgarlata’s estate brought suit against various companies alleging that she was exposed to asbestos while employed as an inspector, and as a shipping and receiving manager at Diemolding Corporation in New York State from 1955 to 1990, causing her peritoneal mesothelioma. The court issued a written decision on its April 19, 2018 grant of summary judgment for defendant Cytec Engineering, f/k/a American Cyanamid as successor to Fiberite (Fiberite), finding no evidence that the decedent was ever in the presence of a Fiberite product.

In its analysis of the facts, the court noted that the plaintiff’s interrogatory answers in the case were verified on “information and belief,” and included a chart titled “Jobsite Specific Exposure History,” which listed product manufacturers by name, and included Fiberite.  The sole witness in the action was decedent’s son, who admitted that he had no knowledge of any of the products or materials used at Diemolding, or whether they contained asbestos. In opposition to Fiberite’s motion, the plaintiff submitted deposition testimony from a Diemolding employee from an unrelated prior case that identified Fiberite products at Diemolding.  There was no dispute that Fiberite had sold products to Diemolding during relevant time periods.

In finding summary judgment for Fiberite, the court noted guiding authority that held that “(t)he contentions of the plaintiff and his attorney, made only upon information and belief…do not suffice as proof in evidentiary form to create a question of fact requiring trial.”  Thus, although Fiberite was identified in the interrogatory responses, by another Diemolding employee, and by Fiberite itself, who conceded that its products were at the site, the court relied on the absence of any evidence showing that the decedent was in the presence of Fiberite’s products in granting Fiberite’s motion.

Read the full decision here.


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