U.S. Supreme Court Decision Quells Disagreement Over Bare Metal Defense in Maritime Cases

In the past few years, the bare metal defense has seen inconsistent and nebulous holdings around the nation. The bare metal defense vindicates an asbestos defendant that manufactured a product that was made of only metal without asbestos but later utilized asbestos components within its products. The defense is commonly seen amongst pump and valve manufacturers and also in United States Navy cases, thereby implicating maritime law. Examples of trial courts granting summary judgment for the defense only to be overturned on appeal are readily…
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Verdict on Non-Economic Damages Reversed and Remanded with Finding of Joint/Several Liability Against Pipe Manufacturer Court of Appeal, First District, Division 4, California. April 15, 2019

CALIFORNIA — In an update to Asbestos Case Tracker’s previous post, the court reversed and remanded this matter ordering a new entry of judgment holding the plaintiffs’ economic and noneconomic damages jointly and severally liable against CertainTeed Corporation (defendant). At the trial level, a jury previously returned a verdict on economic damages in the amount of $776,201 against defendant. The verdict also included $9.25 million in noneconomic damages which was apportioned to defendant at 62 percent with the remaining to other joint tortfeasors. The…
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Summary of Supreme Court Oral Argument on the Bare Metal Defense U.S. Supreme Court, October 10, 2018

On October 10, 2018, oral argument was conducted in Air and Liquid Systems Corp. v. DeVries, a case involving application of the bare metal defense in asbestos cases under maritime law, as previously reported. Petitioners were represented by Shay Dvoretzky of Jones Day and argued first. His first comment was that under long-standing tort law, manufacturers should not be liable for harm caused by third-party goods. Justice Ginsburg then immediately questioned whether the products at issue were of any use without the addition…
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U.S. Supreme Court Set to Hear Bare Metal Defense Argument U.S. Supreme Court E.D Pennsylvania, October 9, 2018

PENNSYLVANIA — On October 10, 2018, the United States Supreme Court will hear argument in Air and Liquid Systems Corp. v. DeVries, a case involving the bare metal defense under maritime law. The case was originally filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in December 2012. It was then removed to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania based upon the federal officer removal statute, due to the decedent’s work on Navy ships. Several defendants’ motions for summary judgment were granted on plaintiff’s negligence claims, based…
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New Jersey Appellate Court Undermines Bare Metal Defense Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, August 6, 2018

NEW JERSEY — The plaintiff, Arthur Whelan, worked as a plumber and auto mechanic and later developed mesothelioma.  He filed suit against numerous manufacturers of boilers, valves, steam traps and brake drums.  While the plaintiff did install original products, the bulk of his testimony concerned replacement components used with the products.  Many defendants filed motions for summary judgment, arguing that plaintiff had failed to demonstrate evidence of exposure to a product they sold, manufactured or supplied.  The trial court found the defendants were not liable…
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Supreme Court Accepts Review of Bare-Metal Defense Under Maritime Law U.S. Supreme Court, May 14, 2018

On May 14, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court accepted the petition of Air & Liquid Systems, CBS Corporation and Foster Wheeler to resolve a split among circuits regarding the viability of the bare metal defense under maritime law. Specifically, the parties appealed the Third Circuit’s ruling in October 2017 that the bare metal defense is inapplicable to negligence claims under maritime law. That opinion was previously analyzed by this blog post. The Supreme Court will resolve a split on the issue between the Third…
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Motion for Reconsideration Based Upon Change in Law Denied as Untimely U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, April 9, 2018

DELAWARE — Plaintiffs Icom and Johanna Evans filed a lawsuit on June 11, 2015 in Delaware Superior Court relating to Mr. Evans’ alleged asbestos exposure. Foster Wheeler removed the matter to federal court on August 4, 2015, pursuant to the federal officer removal statute. Defendants Foster Wheeler and Warren Pumps filed motions for summary judgment in October 2016. Both motions were opposed. The district court issued a Report and Recommendation (R&R) on August 30, 2017, recommending that the motions be granted pursuant to maritime law,…
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Boiler Manufacturer’s Summary Judgment Reversed; Question of Fact on Product ID and Denial of Bare Metal Defense U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, April 2, 2018

CALIFORNIA — In this federal court case, the plaintiffs commenced an action in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania alleging the plaintiff’s decedent, Robert Hilt, was exposed to asbestos from numerous products, including Foster Wheeler boilers, on Navy ships . Foster Wheeler moved for and was granted summary judgment based on the finding that the plaintiff’s expert, Dr. Charles Ay’s, opinion was speculative.  Subsequently all other defendants either settled or were dismissed from the case. The plaintiff appealed the order granting Foster Wheeler summary judgment and…
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Pennsylvania Supreme Court to Consider Manufacturer’s Liability for Asbestos-Containing Component Parts Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, October 26, 2017

PENNSYLVANIA — The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit submitted a Petition for Certification of Question Law on the following issues for consideration: (1) Whether, under Pennsylvania law, a manufacturer as a duty to warn about the hazards of asbestos relating to component parts it has neither manufactured or supplied and (2) if such a duty exists, what is the appropriate legal test to determine liability. On October 26, 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed to consider these issues and instructed parties…
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Standard Based Approach in Bare Metal Defense Permits Sailors to Recover in Negligence U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit, October 3, 2017

The plaintiffs filed suit in negligence and strict liability against several defendants arguing their decedents died from mesotheliomas as a result of their exposure to asbestos containing products for which defendants were responsible. Both plaintiffs alleged exposure while working on-board naval vessels. The defendants removed the case to federal court and summary judgment was granted in their favor on the bare metal defense. The plaintiff separately appealed on the issues of negligence. The appeal was remanded to sort out the negligence issue against the backdrop…
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