Pump Manufacturer’s Motion for Summary Judgment on Replacement Parts Denied; Court Critical of Corporate Representative Affidavit

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Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County, October 11, 2022

In this asbestos action, the plaintiff Gloria Maryn alleged exposure to asbestos from laundering the clothes of her son, Victor Arana. Mr. Arana worked as a plumber’s apprentice for the New York Plumbers Association from 2000 to 2014. One product that Mr. Arana worked with, and that he believes contained asbestos, was Armstrong pumps. Specifically, Mr. Arana removed external insulation from Armstrong pumps and the dust from this insulation would allegedly get on his clothing, which he brought home for laundering.

Armstrong filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that they had no duty to warn of a danger arising from replacement parts, i.e. external insulation, manufactured and supplied by a third party — the use of which was unnecessary for Armstrong pumps to function as intended. In support of their position, Armstrong provided an affidavit from their corporate representative, Jeffrey L. Martin, who contended that Armstrong did not specify, direct, or recommend the use of asbestos-containing external insulation on its pumps. In response, the plaintiffs argued that Mr. Martin admitted during his deposition that some Armstrong pumps contained asbestos packing, and that the operating instructions of some Armstrong pumps indicated that the pumps were thermally protected. As such, the plaintiffs assert that Armstrong knew some of their products were insulated and thus, had a duty to warn.

The plaintiffs also argued that Mr. Martin is not someone with personal knowledge of the relevant facts and therefore, his affidavit does not establish Armstrong’s prima facie burden to demonstrate no issue of fact under New York’s Civil Practice Law and Rules (“CPLR”). Specifically, Ms. Maryn alleged that her exposure to asbestos via Armstrong pumps began in 2000. Mr. Martin did not become an employee of Armstrong until 2007 and would not have experience with Armstrong pumps prior to that point. Moreover, Plaintiffs pointed out that Mr. Marin conceded that he drafted and configured pumps based on designs that were acquired in 1999 by Armstrong from Armstrong Darling. Thus, the specifications relied on by Mr. Martin were based on historical Armstrong Darling pumps, not historical Armstrong pumps – which are at issue here.

The Court ultimately concluded that Armstrong failed to establish that it did not specify the use of asbestos within their pumps. As such, an issue of fact remains as to whether Armstrong had a duty to warn. In addition, the Court agreed with Plaintiff’s assertion that Mr. Martin did not have personal knowledge of Armstrong Pumps. Therefore, Armstrong failed to support their motion for summary judgment with an affidavit of someone with personal knowledge as required by the CPLR. For these reasons, Armstrong’s motion for summary judgment was denied in its entirety.

Read the full decision here