Alleged Product Successor Obtains Summary Judgment on Causation and Successor Liability Grounds

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, November 4, 2021

In this asbestos action, the plaintiff alleges that the decedent, John Sullivan, was exposed to asbestos from products manufactured by Griscom Russell (Viad’s alleged predecessor) while serving in the U.S. Navy from 1967 to 1980. Viad moved for summary judgment on two grounds. First, Viad argued that the plaintiff has not shown that any product for which Viad is allegedly responsible caused Sullivan’s injuries. The court analyzed this argument pursuant to maritime law, where “a plaintiff can rely on direct evidence or circumstantial evidence that will support a reasonable inference that the defendant’s product was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s injury.” Here, while the plaintiff submitted several documents showing that Griscom Russell distilling plants and a lubricating oil cooler were present on the ships, the plaintiff could not offer any evidence to show that these products contained asbestos or were insulated with asbestos-containing materials at the time that Sullivan was on the ships. Further, the plaintiff could not offer any evidence to show that exposure to asbestos from these products was a substantial factor in causing Sullivan’s injury. Finally, the plaintiff failed to show that Viad can “be held liable as a successor-in-interest to Griscom Russell.”

Read the full decision here.