Jurisdiction: Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles
Defendants Mercedes-Benz USA LLC, Morse Tec LLC, and American Honda Motor Co. Inc. filed various motions for summary judgment, or in the alternative summary adjudication, against the plaintiff Samson Bareh’s claims that he was exposed to asbestos from their products. In addition, the defendant, Volkswagen Group of America Inc., filed a motion to compel discovery.
Mercedes-Benz filed a motion for summary adjudication of the strict liability, negligence, and fraud causes of action, as well as the request for punitive damages. As to strict liability and negligence, Mercedes-Benz argued that the plaintiffs lacked evidence establishing that Bareh was exposed to asbestos-containing brakes because plaintiffs were unable to identify the model and year of any cars Bareh worked on beginning in 1988. In addition, Mercedes-Benz ceased supplying asbestos-containing brakes in January 1988. The court denied the motion for summary adjudication due to Bareh’s testimony that he observed the name Mercedes stamped on brakes he worked on, removed Mercedes brakes whenever he replaced brakes on a Mercedes vehicle, and performed “a lot of work” on Mercedes. In addition, although this work began in 1988 – the year Mercedes stopped supplying asbestos-containing brakes – the court concluded, “It is not a reasonable inference that all of Mercedes vehicles for which he replaced brakes in 1988 and a few years thereafter had been manufactured in 1988 and therefore did not have asbestos-containing brakes.”
As to the fraud causes of action, the court granted the motion for summary adjudication and found as follows: the plaintiffs failed to put forth evidence that Mercedes-Benz made any misrepresentation or misleading affirmative statement to the plaintiffs, there was no fraudulent concealment where there were no “direct dealings” between Bareh and Mercedes-Benz, and there could be no conspiracy to commit fraud without underlying fraud established. Lastly, the court granted the motion with respect to punitive damages as the evidence demonstrated that Mercedes-Benz provided warnings before Bareh replaced brakes on Mercedes vehicles.
Similarly, Honda filed a motion for summary judgment, and in the alternative, summary adjudication, of the plaintiffs’ claims that Bareh was exposed to asbestos-containing Honda products. Honda argues that it began phasing out asbestos in 1982, while Bareh worked on Honda vehicles from 1983 through 2010. In addition, he was unable to identify the model year Honda vehicles on which he worked. Because Bareh started working on Honda vehicles just one year after Honda began phasing asbestos out of its products, and he testified that he worked on many Honda vehicles, the court denied the motion for summary judgment. The court granted Honda’s motion as to the fraud claims and denied the motion as to punitive damages.
Morse Tec filed a motion for summary judgment, and in the alternative summary adjudication, of the plaintiffs’ claims that Bareh was exposed to asbestos-containing BorgWarner clutches. Specifically, Bareh testified that he first encountered BorgWarner clutches in 1988, while BorgWarner no longer made asbestos-containing clutches by 1986. Because Morse Tec demonstrated that Bareh only installed new BorgWarner clutches beginning in 1988 – at which point the clutches were no longer asbestos-containing – the court granted the motion for summary judgment.
Volkswagen filed a motion to compel further responses from the plaintiffs to various requests for admission, claiming that they failed to comply with the Code of Civil Procedure. Although the court noted that “propounding 188 requests for admission on one party is excessive,” it further stated that the plaintiffs did not object on that ground. The court granted in part and denied in part the motion to compel.
Read the full decision here.