Summary Judgment Reversed for Gasket Manufacturer, But Affirmed for Pump Manufacturer

GEORGIA – Leisa Davis filed suit against the defendants John Crane (JCI) and FMC Corporation (for Peerless pumps hereinafter FMC), alleging her husband developed and passed away from mesothelioma as a result of his asbestos exposure to products for which the defendants were liable.

Davis worked at the Louisiana Pacific Corporation fiberboard mill from 1984 to 1988 as a laborer and boiler operator. As a laborer, he swept up dust in the mill and removed gaskets and packing from the boilers, pumps, and valves. Davis also scraped the old gaskets and packing off of the pumps and valves. The defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff failed to show that Davis was exposed to their asbestos containing products at the mill. The trial court granted summary judgment and the plaintiff appealed.

The court began its analysis and stated that the plaintiff must show that he was exposed to an asbestos-related product for which the defendant is responsible to survive summary judgment. JCI argued that the plaintiff’s claims were speculative because the plaintiff did not know if certain gaskets contained asbestos. Further, Davis failed to establish exposure to JCI’s products, according to JCI. JCI also argued that it had stopped selling asbestos containing products by the relevant time period. The court disagreed and noted that the evidence was really a question of fact. As for FMC, the appellant argued that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on her negligent design and failure to warn claims as it was foreseeable that “the pumps would require asbestos containing parts as a result of regular wear and tear.” However, the court pointed out that the pumps were installed prior to the plaintiff’s work at the mill. Moreover, the federal circuit has held that the bare metal defense precludes claims for negligent design and negligent failure to warn. The plaintiff had not established that he was exposed to asbestos in FMC’s original pumps. Therefore, summary judgment as to FMC was warranted. The judgment was reversed as to JCI and affirmed as to FMC.

Read the case decision here.