In Case Where Steamfitter Worked on its Premises, Owner Denied Summary Judgment Based on the Wisconsin Safe Place to Work Statute

In yet another follow-up decision in the Ahnert case out of Wisconsin federal court, Pabst Brewing Company moved for summary judgment. As previously reported, Foster Wheeler was granted summary judgment, but insulation contractor, Sprinkmann Sons Corp. was denied summary judgment based on the Wisconsin statute of repose. The decedent was a union Steamfitter from 1955 to 1992 and claimed exposure to asbestos while working on Pabst’s premises. In its motion, Pabst argued that there was no evidence that decedent was exposed to asbestos from any products on a premises owned, operated or controlled by Pabst.

The court, in denying the motion, looked to the Wisconsin safe place statute, Wis. Stat. 101.11, which imposes a duty on premises owners to “construct, repair, and maintain premises so as to make them safe for employees or ‘frequenters.'” The court then looked to the testimony of the decedent’s co-worker, Robert Wolter, who worked at Pabst the same time as decedent and testified to decedent working in the vicinity of pipe insulators installing kaylo pipe covering. The court concluded: “Taking the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, as the court must at this stage of the litigation, there is evidence that creates a genuine issue of material fact under the safe place statute. Wolter testified that he worked with Daniel Ahnert at Pabst, and that Pabst employees were on site draining pipes. Further, the work of disconnecting, reconnecting, and reinsulating pipes created ‘quite a bit of dust.’ On the other hand, Pabst has produced no evidence to support a finding that it relinquished custody or control over the premises to any party during this time frame or that at the time of any relinquishment the premises were otherwise safe. Jack Wetzel, a deliveryman for Sprinkmann, testified that he made deliveries to Pabst between 1955 to 1972 approximately every three weeks and that he delivered asbestos-containing materials, including Eagle 66 cement, and about 75 percent of the materials were high temperature insulation materials.”

Read the full decision here.