New York’s Highest Court Upholds Defense Judgment as a Matter of Law Based on Lack of Sufficient Scientific Evidence

NEW YORK — New York’s highest Court issued its first decision addressing causation standards in an asbestos case, and upheld the trial and intermediate appellate court decisions granting Ford Motor Company judgment as a matter of law in Juni v. A.O. Smith Water Products Co. et al.. ACT has previously reported on the Juni matter here and here.

The majority found that “[v]iewing the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiffs, the evidence was insufficient as a matter of law to establish that respondent Ford Motor Company’s conduct was a proximate cause of the decedent’s injuries pursuant to the standards set forth in Parker v Mobil Oil Corp., 7 NY3d 434 (2006) and Cornell v 360 W. 51st St. Realty, LLC, 22 NY3d 762 (2014). The majority did not include any analysis in support of its ruling. 

In his concurring opinion, Judge Fahey wrote separately to clarify that he was joining the majority based on a particularized failure of proof and that he did not reach the broader issues of general and specific causation which grounded the Appellate Division’s decision. Judge Wilson’s concurrence clarified that he saw the plaintiff’s failure of proof as being purely limited to general causation.  He explained that ” Ford adduced evidence that the process of manufacturing friction products under extreme temperatures alters the chemical composition of the asbestos, and the subsequent use of those products also subjects them to very high temperatures causing the conversion of the asbestos into a biologically inert substance called Forsterite.” Judge Wilson held that these general causation factors were left unrebutted by the Junis’ experts, and were in fact the subject of various concessions about their lack of engineering and industrial hygiene expertise to address these issues. Lastly, Justice Rivera wrote a dissenting opinion arguing that the there was sufficient evidence to remand the case back to the trial court for further consideration, which essentially adopted the rationale set forth in Judge Feinman’s intermediate appellate court dissent.

Read the full decision here.