U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, Southern Division, June 9, 2021
The plaintiffs, William and Karla Dickens, allege that William Dickens developed mesothelioma due to his exposure to asbestos-containing products during automotive mechanical work. The plaintiffs sued multiple defendants, including Ford Motor Co. (Ford). Ford moved for summary judgment in two motions, seeking to dismiss the substantive and punitive damage claims against it. The court determined that there was insufficient evidence of asbestos causation and granted summary judgment. The plaintiffs moved for reconsideration of the court’s decision.
The plaintiffs specifically moved for reconsideration of the court’s finding that there was no genuine issue of material fact with respect to the “lack of causation under the asbestos-specific standard.” In order to prove causation in an asbestos action, a plaintiff must prove the following: (1) exposure to a particular product; (2) on a regular basis; (3) over an extended period of time; and (4) in proximity to where the plaintiff actually worked.
In the court’s decision finding a lack of causation, it considered Dickens’ deposition testimony that he worked with Ford products “twenty to twenty-five” times while employed at Speedy Gas Station. The court applied Mississippi’s “frequency, regularity, and proximity” test and concluded that this contact was insufficient to support causation. The plaintiffs contend that other portions of Dickens’ testimony contradict the testimony considered by the court and therefore create a genuine issue of material fact under the asbestos causation standard. The court rejects this first argument because “speculative possibilities” of exposure do not create a genuine issue of material fact when compared to Dickens’ “own explicit summary of his exposure.”
The plaintiffs also argued that the court failed to consider the opinions of their experts with regard to causation. The court also rejected this second argument because the experts neither attributed Dickens’ mesothelioma to Ford products nor discussed the role Ford products played in his mesothelioma.
Lastly, the plaintiffs claimed that the court erred in its interpretation of certain case law discussing Mississippi’s asbestos causation standard. The court rejected this third argument, finding that Dickens “testified to minimal and limited exposure to Ford products” and there was no genuine issue of material fact.
The court sustained its grant of summary judgment on the issue of causation. As a result, it also sustained its grant of summary judgment on the issue of punitive damages. Thus, the plaintiffs’ motion to reconsider was denied.