Lack of Successor Liability Leads to Grant of Summary Judgment for Shipping Defendant

WASHINGTON — The plaintiffs filed suit against Maersk Line alleging their decedent, Mr. Klopman-Baerselman, was exposed to asbestos from 1955-1959 while working as a merchant marine onboard the Rotterdam Lloyd. The plaintiffs named Maersk as a successor in interest to the Royal Rotterdam Lloyd. The defendant moved for summary judgment arguing that it had no connection to the Rotterdam Lloyd. The plaintiff sought discovery including the deposition of Defendant’s corporate representative Steven Hadder. In the meantime, The defendants removed the case and Maersk moved for summary judgment again. The plaintiff opposed stating that more time was needed to conduct discovery. The court denied the motion giving the plaintiff the benefit of discovery. However, the court noted that plaintiff had ignored the successor in interest challenge thus far.

Discovery continued and the defendant alerted the plaintiff of the successor in interest challenge by letter again. Specifically, counsel informed the plaintiff that Rotterdam Lloyd ceased operations in 1970 and retained its own liabilities in 2000. the plaintiffs deposed the defendant’s corporate representative. From that deposition, the plaintiffs wanted to depose a self-employed Dutch attorney, Daniel Sikkens. to explore the successor issue. the plaintiffs submitted a declaration of intent to continue discovery. Maersk sought summary judgment and argued that the plaintiff had not put forth anything regarding a material fact on the successor in interest challenge. The court reminded the standard for summary and stated that continuing summary judgment is warranted “upon a good faith showing by affidavit that the continuance is needed to obtain facts essential to preclude summary judgment.” Here, the court quickly concluded that The defendant’s motion should be granted. According to the court,  the plaintiff had not put forth any showing of fact as to whether the defendant is the successor in interest to Rotterdam Lloyd. Moreover, the plaintiff had an opportunity for discovery and Mr. Sikken’s deposition could have already been taken. Accordingly, summary judgment was entered.

Read the full case decision here.