Turbine Manufacturer Entitled to Summary Judgment Under Both Maritime Law and New Jersey State Law U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, December 22, 2015

The plaintiff in this case,  Samuel Feaster, alleged exposure to asbestos while employed at a shipyards in New Jersey and  Pennsylvania. Defendant General Electric Company (GE) moved for summary judgment based on maritime law arguing that there was no evidence that the plaintiff was exposed to asbestos from a product manufactured or supplied by them.

The court applied maritime law and granted GE’s motion. The court stated that under maritime law, the plaintiff must show that he was exposed to the defendant’s products and the product was a substantial factor in causing his injury. As the court held: “Here, Plaintiff’s claims against GE fail because there is no evidence in the record establishing that GE manufactured or distributed the asbestos-containing product to which exposure is alleged. Simply put, the record establishes that Plaintiff attributes his asbestos exposure to the insulation surrounding GE turbines, however, there is no evidence identifying who manufactured the insulation on GE turbines. More importantly, there is no evidence establishing that GE manufactured or distributed same. Similarly, there is no evidence that GE’s turbines and/or motors contained asbestos. For these reasons, on this record, there is no available inference that these GE turbines contained asbestos or that the insulation on the turbines were manufactured or supplied by GE. Thus, summary judgment is appropriate.”

The court went on to state that even under New Jersey law summary judgment would be appropriate. “New Jersey law, in an asbestos case, requires that the Plaintiff first establish, ‘in addition to other elements of a product liability action, exposure to friable asbestos manufactured or distributed by the defendant.’ Additionally, to defeat summary judgment, plaintiff must produce evidence demonstrating that ‘reasonable jurors could infer that sometime during [plaintiff’s] work histor[y] … plaintiff [was] exposed to a defendant’s friable asbestos frequently and on a regular basis, while [plaintiff was] in close proximity to it[,]’ as well as ‘competent evidence, usually supplied by expert proof, establish[ing] a nexus between the exposure and plaintiff’s condition.’ As set forth above, this record does not establish that Plaintiff was exposed to a GE asbestos-containing product and there is no record evidence, and indeed same was admitted by Plaintiff, describing the existence of friable asbestos in the context of a GE turbine and/or motor.”

Read the full decision here.


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