Applying Washington Law to Summary Judgment Based on Government Contractor Defense for Pump Manufacturer Results in Denial of Motion

WASHINGTON –The court ruled on competing motions for summary judgment from the plaintiff Alice Mikelsen and the defendant Warren Pumps in this case involving allegations that Arthur Mikelsen developed mesothelioma from working around Warren Pumps in the machine shop at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard from 1942 to 1980.  The plaintiff challenged six of Warren Pumps’ affirmative defenses; the court granted five of the six, eliminating the defenses of failure to mitigate, contributory negligence, assumption of risk, sophisticated purchaser, and intervening/superseding cause.  The court denied summary judgment on the plaintiff’s challenge of Warren’s government contractor affirmative defense, finding disputed facts regarding whether the Navy’s specifications and regulations precluded Warren from satisfying its state law duty to warn.

Regarding Warren’s summary judgment motion based upon the government contractor theory, the court declined to apply maritime law and denied this motion.  Under Washington law, Plaintiff demonstrated facts sufficient to demonstrate potential causation, even though there was no testimony that Mr. Mikelsen worked directly with a Warren Pump.  The court noted that Warren supplied a significant number of pumps to the Navy, Mikelsen worked in the space where those pumps were present, the pumps were used in a manner that created dust, and Mikelsen was in the range of this dust.  The court held that Warren did not show as a matter of law that the Navy had reasonably precise specifications regarding warnings and labeling that precluded Warren from complying with their state law duties.

The order denying the defendants motion for summary judgement can be found here.

The order granting in part the plaintiffs motion for summary judgement can be found here.