Asbestos Complaint Survives Motion to Dismiss

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Eastern Division, May 13, 2022

The plaintiffs Augustus Adams and his wife brought suit against numerous defendants, alleging that Mr. Adams developed mesothelioma and other lung damage from exposure to asbestos fibers during the course of his employment. The plaintiffs assert claims for defective design, failure to warn, implied warranty, gross negligence, and loss of consortium. Defendant Vistra Intermediate Company LLC, individually and as successor-in-interest to CRSS, filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The plaintiffs oppose the defendant’s motion.

The court examined the applicable standard of review: to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Further, factual allegations must be more than speculative. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

The defendant argues that the plaintiffs’ claims fail as a matter of law because the plaintiffs have not included any factual allegations in the complaint regarding the nature or identity of any specific product that the defendant defectively designed or warranted, or about which the defendant failed to warn or breached a duty. However, the court found that the complaint alleges that the defendant bears responsibility for “asbestos-containing products, materials, or equipment, including … asbestos-containing thermal insulation and materials.” The court also noted that the plaintiffs’ allegations are not made in isolation, but rather in the context of allegations about the plaintiff’s work at a single industrial location during a set time range. Therefore, the court held that these allegations, accepted as true for purposes of this motion, are sufficient to satisfy the element of the defendant’s responsibility for an asbestos product that caused harm to the plaintiff under the theories of liability alleged.

The defendant also argues that the plaintiffs fail to allege facts supporting other elements of certain of their claims. For example, the defendants argue that the plaintiffs have failed to allege any facts showing how the product was defective, or how the plaintiff was injured by the unidentified product. However, the court again found that the complaint alleges facts, when taken together in context, that give rise to a plausible inference that the product supplied by the defendant was defective or otherwise merchantable because it contained asbestos.

The court ultimately held that the plaintiffs’ allegations were sufficient to state claims upon which relief can be granted. Therefore, the court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

Read full decision here.