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Printing Press Manufacturers’ Motions for Summary Judgment Denied

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Court: Supreme Court of New York, New York County (NYCAL)

In this asbestos action, defendants L3Harris Technologies Inc. and Heidelberg USA Inc. moved separately for summary judgment, arguing that plaintiff Raymond Desiena did not establish exposure to asbestos from his work on Harris or Heidelberg-branded printing presses during his work as a printing press operator from the 1960s-1980s.

Regarding Harris printing presses, Harris noted that Desiena implicated Harris’s printing presses as utilizing asbestos-containing parts — specifically, friction brakes manufactured by Airflex. In response to this testimony, Harris proffered the affidavit of its corporate representative, George Karosas, who indicated that Harris sheet-fed printing presses did not utilize breaks as described by Desiena.

The court, however, found that Karosas’ affidavit did not establish that Harris products could not have contributed to Desiena’s illness. Specifically, the court stated that Karosas himself noted that he first became aware of Harris presses in 1984, nearly two decades after Desiena’s reported first exposure to asbestos through printing presses, and that Karosas’ affidavit failed to address each type of Harris printing press that to which Desiena could have been exposed.

Given the conflicting testimony, the court determined that a reasonable juror could determine that Desiena was exposed to asbestos from Harris printing presses and that such exposure could have contributed to his illness. For these reasons, the court denied Harris’ motion.

Regarding Heidelberg printing presses, Heidelberg proffered an affidavit from its corporate representative, Shawn McDougall, who stated that based on his personal knowledge and review of company records, “no Heidelberg offset presses or related equipment as manufactured and sold incorporated asbestos or asbestos-containing components of any kind,” including “the brake mechanisms” as identified by Desiena.

In opposition, plaintiff highlighted Desiena’s deposition testimony, which identified Heidelberg printing presses at various worksites. Ultimately, the court determined that McDougall’s affidavit was insufficient to establish that Desiena did not work with Heidelberg printing presses. Specifically, the court pointed out that McDougall was familiar with Heidelberg printing presses from the mid-1970s onwards; however, Desiena testified that he began working with Heidelberg printing presses in the 1960s and early 1970s. For these reasons, the court denied Heidelberg’s motion.

Read the full decisions here and here.