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Boiler Manufacturer’s Motions for Partial Summary Judgment as to Punitive Damages Denied

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Court: Supreme Court of New York, New York County

Defendant Burnham LLC filed motions for partial summary judgment with respect to punitive damages in two actions, DeRoy and Giuliano, on the basis that (1) asbestos exposure from Burnham boilers would fall below TLV or PEL/OSHA limits, and (2) Burnham’s lack of workers’ compensation claims for asbestos-related disease.

The court rejected both arguments, noting that the TLV/OSHA standards “have little bearing on plaintiff’s unequivocal and consistent testimony” regarding his exposure to asbestos from work involving Burnham boilers, and that “the lack of compensation claims from Burnham’s employees are wholly irrelevant to [Burnham’s] conduct as manufacturers of asbestos-containing boilers.”

The court agreed with plaintiff’s argument that the study of William E. Longo, PhD, was insufficient to support partial summary judgment as to punitive damages. That is, Burnham was required to support its motion with “a fact specific study” pursuant to Dyer v. Anchem Products Inc., but instead provided a study that contained “no relevant information regarding the specific products at issue herein, and the specific circumstances in which the instant plaintiff was exposed to asbestos” from Burnham boilers.

In addition, plaintiff adduced sufficient evidence to raise a question of fact with respect to Burnham’s prior knowledge and use of asbestos-containing boiler parts. Accordingly, the court denied Burnham’s motion for partial summary judgment.

Read the DeRoy and Giuliano decisions here.