Ninth Circuit Reverses Summary Judgment for Pump Defendants on Evidence of Supply of Asbestos Containing Gaskets and Packing to U.S. Navy

John H. Boyd, III, as the representative of the plaintiff and appellant Captain John H. Boyd, Jr. (deceased), appealed to the Ninth Circuit the District Court for the Central District of California’s granting of summary judgment in favor of Warren Pumps, LLC, and Air and Liquid Systems Corporation (successor in interest to Buffalo Pumps, Inc.) in this diversity products liability action. In this case, it was alleged that exposure to asbestos from the appellees’ products during Captain Boyd’s service on board the U.S. Navy’s USS Gainard and USS McCain in the 1950s caused Captain Boyd to develop mesothelioma.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment on the ground that Captain Boyd failed to present evidence sufficient to link Buffalo Pumps or Warren Pumps to asbestos-containing replacement parts to which Captain Boyd was exposed during his service onboard the USS Gainard. The court noted that the defendants could only be held liable for exposure to asbestos-containing products that were either manufactured or supplied by them under O’Neil v. Crane Co., 266 P.3d 987, 1005 (Cal. 2012). However, the court reversed and remanded the granting of summary judgment as to the alleged exposures aboard the USS McCain.

The appellants alleged that Captain Boyd was exposed onboard the USS McCain to asbestos from spare packing and gaskets provided with original pumps supplied to the Navy by Buffalo Pumps and Warren Pumps. The Court of Appeals found that the circumstantial evidence raised more than a mere possibility that he was exposed to asbestos-containing spare parts supplied by the defendants either during the initial servicing of the pumps or when those spare parts were removed and replaced during the second servicing of those same pumps. The court found especially notable that there was evidence that the pumps and valves at issue were shipped from the manufacturer to the Navy with asbestos packing or gaskets. The court also found: “Captain Boyd’s showing on this point is bolstered by the declarations of retired Naval engineering officer Francis J. Burger, which state that, as Navy equipment vendors, equipment manufacturers like Buffalo and Warren Pumps more likely than not supplied with a new pump at the time it was sold to the United States Navy spare asbestos-containing packing and gaskets that were designed for use with that original pump.”

The court concluded that a jury could reasonably conclude that Captain Boyd was exposed onboard the USS McCain to asbestos-containing spare packing and gaskets supplied by Buffalo and Warren Pumps.

Read the full decision here.