Summary Judgment Granted as to Two Defendants and Denied for Several Others in Bare Metal Defense Case

The plaintiffs brought this action against several defendants for their decedent’s alleged development of mesothelioma while working aboard ships as an engine man, machinery repairman, and machinist mate.

The defendants moved for summary judgment again after the court announced it would not adopt the Sixth Circuit’s version of the bare metal defense. The court concluded that “the bare metal defense should immunize only a narrower range of conduct.”

Summary Judgment is appropriate when the court determines that there is no genuine dispute as to material fact. Of course, the burden is on the moving party to identify the basis of the motion. The nonmoving party must then come forward ”with specific facts showing that there is a genuine dispute as to material fact.” Before beginning its analysis on summary judgment, the court pointed out that the elements to assert the government contractor were not met.

As for component part defendants, the court stated the defendants need only point out the absence of evidence supporting the plaintiff’s case, i.e., specific evidence was not required. As for the bare metal defense, the “component manufacturer is treated like the manufacturer of the finished product and may be held liable” when the defendant participated in the integration of the bare metal part with the asbestos containing product. Additionally, liability may be found if the bare metal manufacturer supplied its bare component to a “known incompetent.” Here, the defendants did not argue that they did not know asbestos was harmful or that insufficient warnings would ultimately be given. Therefore, the only way the defendants could prevail on summary judgment was to 1) prove that they did not substantially participate in the integration of their bare metal part with the asbestos containing finished product and 2) that they did not recommend the use of asbestos in the product.

Regarding York-Here, the plaintiff testified that he did not work on York’s compressors but rather claimed exposure from insulation during valve work. The court concluded that a manufacturer is not liable just because the asbestos “ended up on the manufacturer’s product.” The valves supplied by York came in shredded lead packing and not in asbestos packing. Further, the plaintiff equivocated on the necessity of use of asbestos in York’s valves during his deposition. The court concluded the plaintiff had not cited any genuine dispute as to material fact and granted summary judgment in favor of York.

Regarding Foster Wheeler, like York, the plaintiffs failed to put forth evidence that Foster Wheeler condensers came with asbestos from Foster Wheeler. The court took exception with Mr. Bell’s testimony in light of the plaintiff’s expert who testified that he had “never seen condensers insulated in my line of work.” Summary judgment was entered in favor of Foster Wheeler.

The remaining defendants’ motions for summary judgment were denied as the court found the plaintiff had established a genuine dispute as to material fact. No in-depth analysis was provided for the remaining defendants.

Read the full decision here.

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