Summary Judgment Granted for Multiple Defendants in Naval Case Based on Failure of Specific Product Identification U.S. District Court, D. Delaware, May 14, 2019

DELAWARE – The plaintiff brought suit against several defendants alleging he developed lung cancer from exposure to asbestos while serving onboard the USS Shangri La and USS Edmonds. The plaintiff passed away prior to giving any deposition testimony. The case was removed to federal court by Crane Co. The defendants moved for summary judgment.

The plaintiff’s sole fact witness, John Poggenburg, testified that he worked with the plaintiff onboard the USS Edmonds from October 1961 until July 1962. Poggenburg recalled the plaintiff starting as a boiler tech but referred to him as the “oil king” by the time he left. Poggenburg admitted that he could not recall the manufacturers of certain equipment, including the steam line insulation, asbestos wrap, pumps, pump packing, gaskets, evaporators or fire bricks. Any specific brands of equipment Poggenburg recalled were only in a general sense. He agreed with the plaintiff’s counsel’s representation that certain manufacturers of equipment were present on the two ships but had no personal knowledge as to those products.

The court quickly noted that the maritime law standard set forth under the Lindstrom standard, required a showing that:

  1. He was exposed to a defendant’s product, and
  2. The product was a substantial factor in causing the injury.

The plaintiff could not establish these requirements through his sole fact witness, Poggenburg. Consequently, the court granted summary judgment as to multiple defendants.

The case summary is provided with permission from Westlaw here.

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