Lack of Evidence Linking Decedent’s Asbestos Exposure to Defendants Leads to Summary Judgment for Pump and Valve Manufacturers and Contractor U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Northeastern Division, March 24, 2016

The plaintiff, George Holland, brought this action on behalf of the decedent, Owen Holland, alleging exposure to asbestos from his work at Monsanto Chemical Plant from 1967–2004. From 1974-2002, the decedent worked with external components of pumps and valves manufactured by Goulds and Crane. He also would sweep packing from around the pumps and fibers from around the valves. Both Goulds and Crane moved for—and were denied—summary judgment. Defendant Fluor Daniel preformed construction and maintenance work at Monsanto from 1967-1998. Its motion for summary judgment was granted only in part and just the claims prior to May 19, 1980 were dismissed based on the statute of repose. The defendants appealed.

On appeal, all of defendants’ motions were granted. Regarding Crane, the court held: “Simply put, George has failed to present any evidence showing that Crane was the manufacturer of any of the packing Owen worked around or that a particular shipment to Monsanto of Crane valves had asbestos in their original packing. As such, there is no evidence before the court linking Crane valves with original asbestos-containing component parts to the valves that Owen worked around. Without this evidence, no reasonable jury could conclude that Owen was exposed to asbestos fibers from a product manufactured, supplied, or otherwise placed into the stream of commerce by Crane. Accordingly, summary judgment in favor of Crane is warranted with respect to this alleged exposure.”

Regarding Fluor Daniel, the court noted that the plaintiff relied on the testimony of a Richard May, who was not disclosed until eight months after the close of discovery. As the court held: “Accordingly, Mays’ testimony is inadmissible and cannot form the basis to defeat summary judgment. Alternatively, even if Mays’ testimony is admissible, it does not create a material dispute because Mays does not mention Owen directly, and he is not even certain if he personally worked with any asbestos insulation. Moreover, Owen’s own testimony that he breathed in the dust generated by “Daniel” crews performing insulation work at Monsanto is speculative and conclusory. Accordingly, summary judgment is due in favor of Fluor Daniel.” (internal citations omitted).

Regarding Goulds, the court held: “Based on the record before this court, the court finds that George has failed to present evidence that the Goulds pumps supplied to Monsanto were among the Goulds pumps with original asbestos-containing component parts. In fact, Owen testified that although he worked around Goulds pumps, he never worked on the internal parts of a pump, and that it was impossible to determine the manufacturer of the packing material that was removed from any of the pumps. Simply put, because Owen could not identify Goulds as the manufacturer of the packing to which he was exposed to during his employment at Monsanto, and in light of George’s failure to present any evidence showing that a particular shipment of Goulds pumps to Monsanto had asbestos in their original packing, Goulds is due summary judgment with respect to this alleged exposure.”

Read the full decision here.


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