DELAWARE — Plaintiff Larry Sturgill, who died of mesothelioma, worked in home remodeling and construction for three years, using joint compound manufactured by three companies. Defendant Union Carbide moved for summary judgment, which the court granted.
U.S. Gypsum and National Gypsum, were allegedly supplied with Calidria asbestos for their joint compound products by Union Carbide. Virginia substantive law governed the case. Union Carbide argued that 1) the plaintiff could not establish that he worked with any joint compound containing Calidria, 2) that a bulk supplier of raw material to a sophisticated manufacture has no duty to end users for dangers associated with the manufacturer’s end product, and 3) if a duty existed, there was insufficient causation.
Factually, Union Carbide argued it did not sell Calidria to the facility responsible for supplying U.S. Gypsum joint compound to the region where the plaintiff lived. They further argued that they were generally a minor supplier of asbestos to National Gypsum. The plaintiff argued that Union Carbide estimated that Calidria asbestos represented 50 percent of the total amount of asbestos in joint compound in the U.S. in the 1970s. The plaintiff tried to persuade the court that Union Carbide could not assert a bulk supplier defense because they claimed that Union Carbide concealed the hazards of Calidria from customers, and a jury could reasonably conclude that the plaintiff’s exposure to Calidria was a proximate cause of his mesothelioma.
The court noted that summary judgment would not be granted if there was a material fact in dispute, but the motion must be decided on the record presented and not on “evidence potentially possible.” After reviewing documents evidencing Union Carbide’s Calidria supply history, the court stated: “(i)f Union Carbide was simply one of several suppliers of asbestos to joint compound manufacturers, it cannot reasonably be inferred that the asbestos to which Mr. Sturgill was exposed was supplied by Union Carbide.” In supporting its decision to grant summary judgment for Union Carbide, the court stated that the plaintiff did not rebut Union Carbide’s contention that it did not supply Calidria to the facility responsible for supplying U.S. Gypsum joint compound to the region where the plaintiff lived. Further, Union Carbide was not an exclusive supplier to the plant responsible for supplying National Gypsum to the plaintiff’s region.