Summary Judgment Granted For Muffler Manufacturer Where Inference of Exposure Not Permitted Superior Court of Delaware, April 10, 2019
DELAWARE — The plaintiff, Jimmy Crawford, sued Tenneco Automotive Operating Company Inc. (Tenneco), among other defendants, alleging that his lung cancer was caused by asbestos present in Walker automotive mufflers. Prior to his death, the plaintiff testified that he worked at two automotive stations from 1963 to 1965, where he worked with Walker mufflers. He believed he was exposed to asbestos from the mufflers because he was potentially told by his father that the mufflers contained asbestos due to their high heat application. Tenneco moved for summary judgment arguing that since not all Walker mufflers during the relevant time period contained asbestos, the plaintiff could not satisfy his burden under Delaware law, specifically the Stigliano decision.
That case held that when the record reveals that a defendant manufactured both asbestos-containing and non asbestos-containing versions of a product during the relevant time period, the court could not draw the inference of exposure in the absence of evidence directly or circumstantially linking the plaintiff to the asbestos-containing product. Plaintiff argued that Tenneco’s discovery responses from this lawsuit, which stated that “some” Walker mufflers contained asbestos, directly contradicted Tenneco’s prior responses in another litigation that made no such limiting statement. The court nevertheless found that Tenneco established it manufactured mufflers that did and did not contain asbestos. Since plaintiff was unable to identify the Walker mufflers other than to say he worked on them, the plaintiff’s evidence was found insufficient to overcome Stigliano. Accordingly, summary judgment was entered in favor of Tenneco.
Read the full case decision here.