Denial of Floor Tile Manufacturer’s Motion for Summary Judgment

Supreme Court of New York, New York County, March 29, 2022

From 1964 to the early 1970s, the plaintiff worked as a carpenter with his brother-in-law and the Carpenter’s Union, Local 257.  From 1969 to his retirement in 2007, he worked as a carpenter at commercial and residential locations throughout New York.  The plaintiff was diagnosed with lung cancer in March 2020.  The plaintiff filed a lawsuit premised on his exposure to Goodyear floor tile that he encountered during the late 1960s and early 1970s.  The specific product to which he alleged exposure is a Goodyear floor tile that is “approximately 12” x 12” with non-homogeneous color patterns.”  Goodyear manufactured the following floor tiles: Deluxe-On-Grade (DOG), Homogeneous-On-Grade (HOG), Black Back, and Heavy-Duty Homogeneous (HDH).  In the 1950s, Goodyear stopped manufacturing the Black Back floor tiles.  In addition, the Black Back tiles were nine inches by nine inches.  Goodyear filed a motion for summary judgment.

In support of its motion, Goodyear argued that the only floor tile the plaintiff could have worked with was DOG, which did not contain asbestos.  Goodyear described the DOG floor tile as “not only non-homogenous but . . . also manufactured in the 12” by 12” size.”  Goodyear further stated that “the physical appearance of the Goodyear-brand floor tile remained the same: it was 12” by 12” in dimension, with various colors or pattern on the surface, while the bottom of the floor tile remained a dark, almost black color.” 

The Court noted that its function in considering a motion for summary judgment “is one of issue finding, not issue determination.”  In his deposition testimony, the plaintiff stated that he knew Goodyear floor tiles contained asbestos because the box said “vinyl asbestos tile on it.”  The plaintiff’s testimony presents an issue of fact as to whether the floor tiles contained asbestos and whether they were a proximate cause of his lung cancer.  The Court further noted that, according to Goodyear’s interrogatories, the HDH floor tile also came in the 12” by 12” size and contained approximately 5 percent asbestos.  This, too, demonstrates an issue of fact as to the type of floor tiles encountered by the plaintiff.  Lastly, the Court considered the deposition testimony of Russell T. Holmes, a former Goodyear floor tile development engineer.  According to Mr. Holmes, although Goodyear removed HDH tiles from the market in 1975, Goodyear still received special orders.  Thus, the Court found that the asbestos-containing HDH tiles, though discontinued, were still produced during the time the plaintiff worked as a carpenter.  As such, the Court denied Goodyear’s motion for summary judgment.

Read the full decision here