Court Grants Pump Manufacturer’s MSJ Finding No Evidence Decedent was Exposed to Defendant’s Products

U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, July 16, 2021

The plaintiff filed this personal injury action against multiple defendants in the Superior Court of Delaware asserting claims arising from the decedent’s harmful exposure to asbestos. The plaintiff alleges the decedent developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure to defendant Nash Engineering Co.’s (Nash) asbestos-containing products during the decedent’s service as a boiler tender in the United States Navy. The lawsuit was removed to federal court on the basis of the federal officer removal statute. Nash then filed a motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff did not respond to Nash’s motion for summary judgment.

In its motion, Nash argued that the court should grant its motion because no evidence of frequent or regular exposure to any asbestos-containing products associated with Nash exists in the record. Prior to his death, the decedent provided testimony that he never personally performed work on Nash pumps during his time in the Navy. He also admitted the pumps in the boiler room were manufactured by Warren. He did not provide any testimony that he worked with or around Nash products.

The parties agreed that maritime law applied to all substantive issues in this litigation. In order to establish causation in an asbestos claim under maritime, a plaintiff must show, for each defendant that that (1) he was exposed to the defendant’s product, and (2) the product was a substantial factor to the text of the note in causing the injury he suffered. The plaintiff must show a high enough level of exposure that an inference that the asbestos was a substantial factor in the injury is more than conjectural.

The court recommended granting Nash’s motion for summary judgment because there was no genuine issue of material fact in dispute as to whether the decedent was exposed to an asbestos-containing Nash product, as required by maritime law. The plaintiff provided no product identification evidence related to Nash. Accordingly, the court declined to address substantial factor causation under maritime law. The court noted, the lack of evidence pertaining to product identification and causation foreclosed the plaintiff’s strict liability, wrongful death, and loss of consortium claims. Furthermore, there was no evidence in the record of willful and wanton conduct that would permit the plaintiff’s claim of punitive damages against Nash to survive summary judgment. Therefore, the court recommended granting Nash’s motion for summary judgment.

Read the full decision here.