Various Defendants Granted Summary Judgment Under Maritime Law Bare Metal Defense

Plaintiffs Stephen and Marilyn Charlevoix filed this asbestos related personal injury action in Delaware Superior Court against multiple defendants on July 10, 2015. Crane removed the action to this court on August 21, 2015. The plaintiff stated that Mr. Charlevoix was first exposed to asbestos-containing products during his service as a boiler tender with the U.S. Navy from 1961 to 1964 aboard the USS Valley Forge. After his service in the Navy, Mr. Charlevoix worked at Grede Foundry from 1964 to 1966 as a grinder. From 1966 to 1978, Mr. Charlevoix worked as an equipment operator and foreman for M.J. Electric. After leaving M.J. Electric, Mr. Charlevoix went to Charlevoix Logging to work as a logger, where he worked until 2012. The plaintiff and two other product identification witnesses were deposed.

Five defendants filed motions for summary judgment. The motions were filed by the defendants, Caterpillar Inc., VIAD Corp., Warren Pumps, LLC, Crane Co., and Ford Motor Company. “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Material facts are those that could affect the outcome of the proceeding, and “a dispute about a material fact is ‘genuine’ if the evidence is sufficient to permit a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”

The parties agree that maritime law applies to all naval and 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 factor4 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.”

Further, should the court decide that product identification has been established, it then considers the assertion of the “bare metal” defense by the moving defendants. The bare metal defense relates to defendants in asbestos cases that “manufactured so-called ‘bare-metal’ products that contained or were later encapsulated in asbestos.”

After analysis of the testimony of the witnesses the court found that the witnesses’ testimony did not carry the plaintiffs’ burden to overcome summary judgment. As such, all defendants’ motions were granted.

Read the full decision here.