Brake Manufacturer Granted Summary Judgment on Basis of De Minimis Exposure U.S. District Court, D. Delaware. January 25, 2019

DELAWARE – The plaintiff Elizabeth Alice Dove (Plaintiff) alleges that her father Gus Dove (Mr. Dove) developed lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases because of his exposure to a variety of asbestos-containing products manufactured, sold, or supplied by the defendants – among them, Honeywell – during the course of Mr. Dove’s career and through shade-tree mechanic work. Honeywell successfully moved for summary judgment under Rule 56(a) on multiple grounds, the primary one involving insufficient product identification under Delaware’s “Product Nexus Standard.”

Mr. Dove gave discovery deposition testimony in this matter that he had undertaken shade-tree mechanic work – including brake work using Bendix brakes (for which Honeywell possess alleged liability) from 1954 to 1956 – while staying at multiple Air Force bases during the 1950s. He did a yearlong stint in Turkey from 1963 through 1964, and afterward stayed in various U.S. bases, undertaking aircraft maintenance and administrative work through his retirement in 1995. At his subsequent video de bene esse deposition taken in this matter, Mr. Dove greatly diminished the frequency with which he had testified to using Bendix brakes during his earlier discovery deposition.

Delaware law requires that a plaintiff asserting a claim for asbestos-related injuries introduce evidence meeting the Product Nexus Standard. Specifically, a plaintiff must make showing that “the asbestos product was used in an area where the plaintiff frequented, walked by, or worked adjacent to, with the result that fibers emanating from the use of the product would have been present in the area where the plaintiff worked.” Moreover, the Standard “requires plaintiff to show some evidence of both daily and continuous proximity to the defendant’s product for more than a de minimis period of time.”

The District of Delaware framed the issue for summary judgment as whether Mr. Dove’s alleged exposure to Bendix brakes during his shade-tree work on ten occasions, as testified to during his video deposition testimony, is sufficient to create a factual issue as to Honeywell’s negligence and be the proximate cause of Mr. Dove’s injuries. Honeywell’s motion was premised on the proposition that Mr. Dove’s work with Bendix brakes during two years of an extensive career that allegedly exposed Mr. Dove to other asbestos-containing products was de minimis, and thereby failed the Product Nexus Standard.

Finding that Mr. Dove’s exposure did not meet the presence and proximity requirements under the Product Nexus Standard, the court granted summary judgment on Honeywell’s negligence claim. The court also granted summary judgment on strict liability, conspiracy, and punitive damages.

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