Applying Alabama Law In Two Cases, Federal Court Grants One Motion and Denies Another to Engine Manufacturers Under Bare Metal Defense

In one case, the plaintiff claimed that the decedent was exposed to asbestos while working on Cummins engines in the Navy and Coast Guard. Defendant Cummins moved for summary judgment, arguing that the engines were 17 years old and were overhauled at least once. There was no proof the gasket materials were original to the engine. The plaintiff also argued that the decedent was exposed to asbestos blankets and lagging on the engines. The court recognized that Alabama would recognize the bare metal defense and, based on Alabama law, granted summary judgment: “The defendant has presented evidence negating the presence of asbestos in its engines at the time the plaintiff’s decedent encountered them. The plaintiff has neither challenged the defendant’s evidence nor offered relevant countering evidence of her own. The plaintiff notes that her decedent testified he was exposed to asbestos from gaskets on the engines, (Doc. 152 at 10-15), but he did not testify that these gaskets were original to the engines and so did not contradict the defendant’s evidence.”

In the other, defendant Cameron International Corporation, also a manufacturer of engines, moved for summary judgment based on the bare metal defense as well. The critical difference is that Cameron did not present affirmative evidence that the asbestos from its engines were not original when decedent encountered them: “The predicate for the bare metal defense is, of course, that the defendant’s product contained no asbestos implanted by the defendant when the plaintiff encountered it. The defendant has failed to demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact as to this threshold issue. That is, the defendant has neither negated the presence of asbestos in its original product nor pointed to anything in the record that shows the plaintiff will be unable at trial to offer evidence that the original engines contained asbestos that was still there in 1958.”  Cameron’s motion was denied.

Read the first decision here.

Read the second decision here.