Valve Manufacturer Granted Summary Judgment under Maritime Law Based on Lack of Causation

In this federal court action, it is alleged that the decedent, Richard Bell, was exposed to asbestos during his service in the Navy where he served on the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1961 to 1962. Velan Valve Corp. moved for summary judgment asserting maritime law.

The plaintiff did not oppose the application of maritime law. The court went on to analyze the application of maritime law and found it applied in the case. The court then went on to grant Velan summary judgment, stating that the plaintiff failed to prove causation.  The plaintiff’s witness, Michael Loveless, served on the Roosevelt, with the decedent and identified Velan valves aboard the ship. However, Mr. Loveless could only testify to serving with an individual named Bell while on laundry sorting detail.

As the court held: “Loveless testified that he never saw Decedent work with or around any steam traps. Loveless himself only replaced gaskets on a steam trap on two occasions during his service on the Roosevelt. This does not rise above ‘mere exposure’ or ‘minimal contact’ as required under Lindstrom. Further, Loveless testified that steam traps were not insulated. In other words, there was no asbestos on the traps.”  The court went on to state “While all reasonable inferences must be drawn in favor of Plaintiff, Plaintiff cannot create a genuine issue of material fact through mere speculation or the building of inference upon inference. Instead, inferences must be supported by facts in the record. See Lindstrom, 424 F.3d at 492 (“[A] mere showing that defendant’s product was present somewhere at plaintiff’s place of work is insufficient [to establish causation]). Here, the record does not contain enough evidence — direct or circumstantial – to create a genuine issue of material fact. Accordingly, summary judgment is granted.”

As previously noted on December, 1, 2015, John Crane was granted summary judgment on the same grounds.

Read the full decision here.