Plaintiff’s Deposition Testimony Presents Sufficient Evidence to Overcome Automobile Manufacturer’s Motion for Summary Judgment

DELAWARE — Plaintiffs John and Vicki DeCastro originally filed a personal injury action against multiple defendants in the Superior Court of Delaware, asserting claims arising from Mr. DeCastro’s alleged harmful exposure to asbestos. The case was properly removed to Federal Court under the federal officer removal statute. Mr. Castro alleged that he developed lung cancer as a result of his exposure to asbestos during his service in the United States Air Force, civilian employment with Pacific Bell Telephone and United Airlines, and personal automotive and aircraft maintenance work. Defendant Ford subsequently filed the instant motion for summary judgment. The parties stipulated to applying California substantive law to the claims and defenses asserted in this case.

The court determined that the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to raise a material issue of fact as to whether Ford supplied original asbestos-containing parts, and whether Mr. DeCastro was exposed to asbestos when he performed personal automotive work on the eight Ford vehicles he owned or encountered in his lifetime. While California recognized the bare metal defense, plaintiffs presented sufficient evidence to create a dispute of fact as to whether original parts and materials supplied directly by Ford were a potential source of Mr. DeCastro’s exposure.  Therefore, there was potentially a duty to warn based on the risks associated with the reasonably anticipated use of the manufacturer’s own product.

The court additionally denied Ford’s arguments related to strict liability and loss of consortium for the same reasons as stated above.

Lastly, Ford’s Motion related to punitive damages was granted because, “Plaintiffs fail to present evidence sufficient to create a factual issue in dispute as to whether Ford’s conduct constitutes ‘oppression, fraud, or malice’.”

Read the full decision here.