$650,000 Verdict Vacated Based on Lack of Evidence That Cement Manufacturer Was “Exclusive Supplier” to Boiler Company Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, July 9, 2018
NEW JERSEY — The plaintiff’s Decedent William Condon and Plaintiff Debbie Condon originally filed suit in 2014 against 97 defendants, alleging that Decedent’s exposure to asbestos from their products caused his mesothelioma. On June 19, 2014, a Law Division judge denied Defendant Pecora Corporation’s motion for summary judgment. Of the defendants who settled with the plaintiff, nine did so before trial. At trial, the jury apportioned liability and damages between eleven defendants, including Pecora. Six of the eleven defendants went to trial; the others were either granted summary judgment or dismissed from the case. Pecora was apportioned damages of two percent of the total compensatory award of $6.5 million and punitive damages award of $1 million, which was molded to $650,000 in accordance with the punitive damages cap in New Jersey.
Pecora unsuccessfully moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or a new trial on March 6, 2015. That decision, like the summary judgment decision before it, was based on the judge’s finding that Pecora was the “exclusive supplier” of asbestos cement used in the Burnham products to which Condon was exposed.
The Appellate Court determined that the factual finding of Pecora being the “exclusive supplier” was not supported by the record. The Appellate Court held that the sole possible link between Condon and Pecora was Burnham boilers, and the plaintiff’s proofs did not establish that (1) the Burnham boilers were shipped with trim kits, and (2) those trim kits included wet cement rather than dry cement (Pecora did not manufacture dry cement). The decedent, during his deposition, could not specifically recall whether Burnham boilers came with trim kits. Furthermore, there was no evidence that even if the Burnham boilers came with trim kits, that the kits contained wet cement rather than dry cement.
The case was remanded to the trial court to grant Pecora’s motion for summary judgment.