Deere Granted Summary Judgment Based on Speculation Tractor Contained Asbestos Parts it Manufactured Superior Court of Delaware, May 10, 2017
The Superior Court of Delaware issued another ruling in a case reported in Asbestos Case Tracker on May 15, 2017. In this ruling, the court granted defendant Deere & Company’s motion for summary judgment. The decedent died from lung cancer. Counsel stipulated that his asbestos exposure occurred from 1955-79. Prior to his death, the decedent gave a deposition stating that he worked on “older” John Deere tractors from 1953-79. This work included grinding head gaskets once per year or every other year. Replacement parts came from John Deere dealers. He also changed clutches on older Deere tractors and performed some brake work.
Deere argued the decedent affirmed multiple times that he did not work on Deere farm equipment until after 1979. Further, there was no evidence that decedent changed the original equipment on the tractors, the plaintiff did not present evidence of the brand of parts replaced, and provided an affidavit which stated companies other than John Deere sold aftermarket parts that fit the models decedent worked upon. The plaintiff offered Deere’s discovery responses which stated that Deere bought asbestos containing components from third party suppliers.
The court granted Deere’s summary judgment based upon North Carolina law requiring the plaintiff to establish actual exposure to an asbestos-containing product manufactured, sold, or distributed by the defendant. This case was analogous to prior asbestos matters granting summary judgment upon similar facts. Here, a reasonable juror, beyond speculation, could not infer that the “older” Deere tractors had asbestos parts made by Deere. Deere submitted evidence that it purchased parts from multiple third parties. Like prior case law, “Plaintiff did not know the maintenance history of the ‘older’ Deere tractors, whether they were serviced before he worked on them, or if the replacement parts were Deere products beyond his boss telling him that he purchased the parts from the Deere dealer.”