Granting of Summary Judgment to Asbestos Insulation Supplier Based on Government Contractor Defense Upheld on Appeal Court of Appeal of California, First Appellate District, Division One, November 22, 2016
In this case, the plaintiff, Gary Kase, claimed exposure to asbestos insulation used in Navy nuclear submarines during the 1970s. Defendant Metalclad Insulation Corp. provided the asbestos-containing insulation, Unibestos, to the U.S. Navy. Metaclad moved for and was granted summary judgment based on the government contractor defense. The plaintiff appealed.
On appeal, the court thoroughly reviewed the standards for summary judgment based on the government contractor defense pursuant to the seminal case Boyle v. United Technologies Corp., 487 U.S. 500 (1988). Boyle set forth a three prong test for granting summary judgment: “(1) the United States approved reasonably precise specifications; (2) the equipment conformed to those specifications; and (3) the supplier warned the United States about the dangers in the use of the equipment that were known to the supplier but not to the United States.” The court upheld summary judgment, outlining that while the government specifications did not expressly call for asbestos-containing insulation, they could only be met with the asbestos product. The court also highlighted that the Navy had for decades studied the health hazards of asbestos and continued to expressly approve of Unibestos.