California Court Relies on Absence of Evidence in Plaintiff’s Discovery Responses to Affirm Summary Judgment for Defendant Fluor California Court of Appeal, December 15, 2015

A husband and wife sued numerous defendants after the husband was diagnosed with asbestosis in 2011. Defendant Fluor moved for summary judgment, which the court granted, on the basis that the plaintiffs failed to establish a triable issue of fact that the plaintiff was exposed to asbestos from Fluor products. The appellate court affirmed. The plaintiffs alleged the husband was exposed to a variety of asbestos-containing products during his work with Southern California Gas Company from the 1950s-90s. In response to discovery from Fluor, the…
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California Court Holds Refractory Contractor Established Insufficient Evidence of Exposure and Grants Summary Judgment U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, November 2, 2015

The plaintiff commenced this wrongful death claim alleging the decedent was exposed to asbestos while J.T. Thorpe & Sons was performing refractory work around boilers. Thorpe moved for summary judgment on the ground that there was insufficient evidence decedent was actually in the vicinity of Thorpe employees working with refractory materials. The court concluded that the plaintiff has some threshold burden of establishing some factual basis for exposure and that Thorpe met it initial burden that there was insufficient evidence of exposure: “Thorpe has satisfied…
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California Appellate Court Examines Entire Record, Not Just Expert Testimony, To Affirm Denial of Motions for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District, Division Four, October 28, 2015

The plaintiff in this case was diagnosed with mesothelioma and filed claims for negligence, strict liability, and loss of consortium against, among others, Union Carbide and Elementis Chemicals, as successor-in-interest of Harrison & Crosfield, Pacific, Inc., and certain related entities.  The plaintiff submitted three theories of liability: strict liability (design defect under the consumer expectations test); strict liability (failure to warn); and negligence (failure to warn). The jury returned special verdicts in favor of the plaintiff on the strict liability claim in that Union Carbide…
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Talc Manufacturer’s Motion to Quash Granted Based on Lack of Specific Personal Jurisdiction Superior Court of California, County of Los Angles, October 16, 2015

In this California case, the plaintiffs allege that the decedent, Oscar Villanueva, was exposed to asbestos contaminated talc from the use of Old Spice Talcum powder.   Defendant Whittaker, Clark & Daniels, Inc. (WCD) was one of the suppliers of talc to Shulton, Inc. (Shulton), the former manufacturer of the Old Spice product. WCD moved to quash for lack of personal jurisdiction and the court allowed plaintiffs the opportunity of jurisdictional discovery. Following the discovery, the court granted WCD’s motion to quash. In its analysis, the…
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Federal Court Remands Action Based on Equity Even Though Removal Was Proper on Bankruptcy Issue U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, October 13, 2015

In this federal court case, the plaintiffs commenced an action against various defendants for the alleged asbestos exposure and development of mesothelioma for decedent, George Fenicle.  Following decedent’s death, plaintiffs amended their complaint to name Boise Cascade Company and OfficeMax (“Defendants”). The defendants subsequently removed the matter to federal court under 28 U.S.C. 1441, for putative federal question jurisdiction, and 28 U.S.C. 1452, as a bankruptcy-related action. The plaintiffs moved to remand, arguing removal was improper since the defendants did not seek approval from all…
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Decedent’s At-Home Asbestos Exposure From Employer’s Products Does Not Bar the Application of California Workers’ Compensation Act Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District, Division Four, September 17, 2015

After working for defendant Ameron International for approximately 24 years, Lario Melendrez passed away from mesothelioma. The plaintiffs commenced a wrongful death action, alleging Mr. Melendrez was exposed to asbestos both during the manufacture of Ameron’s Bondstrand pipe products and in bringing scrap products home for use. Ameron moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiffs’ sole remedy against Ameron lies in the California Workers’ Compensation Act. The trial court granted summary judgment and the appellate court affirmed. While the issue of whether Mr. Melendrez’s…
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California Appellate Court Holds No Duty for Vessel Owner Based on No Active Control Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District, Division Four, August 11, 2015

In this mesothelioma case, the decedent worked for a vessel repair company and performed repair work on a vessel involving pipe insulation possibly containing asbestos. His estate sued the vessel owner under “both the Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, 33 United States Code section 905(b) (the Act, or section 905(b)) and state law.” The vessel owner moved for summary judgment on a number of  grounds, including that it did not actively control the area where the alleged exposure occurred. The lower court granted the…
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Crane Co. Granted Summary Judgment in Two California Federal Court Cases U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, July 23, 2015 and U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, July 21, 2015

In two separate decisions, Crane Co. was granted summary judgment on different grounds in two federal court cases. In the first, a Southern District case, Crane moved on the grounds that the plaintiffs could not show that the decedent, Michael Walashek, was exposed to asbestos from any of its products. In support of its motion, Crane relied on the plaintiffs’ interrogatory responses where they failed to identify any specific documents supporting the claimed exposure against Crane. In granting the motion, the court held that Crane…
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California Appellate Court Upholds Rejection of Lay and Expert Witness and Grants Zenith Summary Judgment in Radio Tube Asbestos Case Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District, July 16, 2015

The California Court of Appeal affirmed the rejection of lay witness testimony as to asbestos content: “As a lay witness, Darby could testify to his observations about the texture of the material, but not to his conclusion that it contained asbestos since a lay witness may not opine about matters not within common knowledge or experience. (Cf. McAlpin, supra, 53 Cal.3d at p. 1308 [lifeguards who recovered body from water were not qualified to express medical opinion on cause of death].) According to Savic, ‘fibrous…
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California Appellate Court Reverses $32.5 Million Punitive Damage Award Against BorgWarner, Among Other Rulings Court of Appeal of California, July 15, 2015

  In this wrongful death lawsuit, the decedent was allegedly exposed to asbestos from BorgWarner clutches while working as a security guard at a General Motors assembly plant. The case went to trial and the jury awarded various economic and noneconomic damages to the family of the decedent. During the punitive damages phase of the trial, the plaintiff’s expert testified as to the financial condition of BorgWarner over objections that he improperly considered the financial condition of other separate corporate entities. The jury unanimously awarded punitive…
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