Various Product Manufacturers Granted Summary Judgment Under Maritime and Oregon Law U.S. District Court, District of Delaware, July 21, 2017

Harold and Judy Haynes filed this asbestos related personal injury action in the Delaware Superior Court against multiple defendants on June 3, 2016, asserting claims arising from Mr. Haynes’ alleged harmful exposure to asbestos. Defendant Crane Co. removed the action to U.S. District Court in Delaware on July 15, 2016. Defendants Aurora, Warren Pumps, Pfizer, FMC, Honeywell, BorgWarner, and Air & Liquid filed motions for summary judgment on March 24, 2017.The plaintiffs did not respond to these motions. Counsel for the defendants sent letters to the court seeking dismissal due to the plaintiffs’ lack of opposition to its summary judgment motion.

The plaintiffs alleged that Mr. Haynes developed lung cancer as a result of exposure to asbestos-containing products during the course of his service as a boiler tender with the U.S. Navy from 1959 to 1963. In addition, Mr. Haynes alleged he was exposed to asbestos from 1963 to 2015 as a result of his employment as a fireman, mechanic, laborer, and janitor. Mr. Haynes was deposed on December 6 and 7, 2016. The plaintiffs did not produce any other fact or product identification witnesses for deposition.

The parties agreed that Oregon law applies to all land-based claims. Under Oregon law, a plaintiff must establish that a particular defendant’s product was a “substantial factor” in causing the plaintiff’s injury. Further, a plaintiff must present evidence that the “defendant’s asbestos was present in the workplace.”

Additionally, the parties did not dispute that maritime law applied to all Naval/sea-based claims. In order to establish causation in an asbestos claim under maritime law, a plaintiff must show, for each defendant, that “(1) he was exposed to the defendant’s product, and (2) the product was a substantial factor in causing the injury he suffered.” Other courts in this Circuit recognize a third element and require a plaintiff to “show that (3) the defendant manufactured or distributed the asbestos-containing product to which exposure is alleged.”

Based solely on testimony of Mr. Haynes, the court found that the plaintiffs did not meet the required burdens described above. Accordingly, the court recommended granting the defendants’ motions for summary judgment.

Read the full decision here.

 


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