Steam Equipment Manufacturer Granted Summary Judgment on Product Identification Grounds

U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, April 28, 2021

The plaintiff alleged that the decedent, Carl E. Gay, was exposed to asbestos while serving in the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force from 1946 to 1958 and 1958 to 1967, respectively; and while employed by General Electric Co. from 1967 to 1974 and Stone and Webster from 1974 to 1989; and from performing Shadetree automotive work beginning in the 1940s. Mr. Gay was deposed over the course of nine days and identified various manufacturers and suppliers of asbestos-containing products. He passed away several months after his deposition. Defendant Mueller Steam Specialty moved for summary judgment. Specific to Mueller, the plaintiff alleged that Mr. Gay was exposed to asbestos from Mueller strainers and steam traps when he inspected piping at the Beaver Valley Power Station during his employment with Stone & Webster. In support of this claim, the plaintiffs offered the testimony of James Daugherty, who was deposed in an unrelated case as to his experience at the Beaver Valley Power Station. Mr. Daugherty testified that he observed Mueller steam traps in Unit 1 of the station beginning in 1979.

On its motion, Mueller first argued that Mr. Gay failed identify its products as a source of his exposure to asbestos during his deposition. Second, Mueller argued that it did not sell steam traps during the time that Mr. Gay worked at the Beaver Valley Power Station, and third, that the plaintiff’s evidence failed to establish that Mr. Gay was exposed to Mueller products with the requisite frequency, regularity, and proximity required under Pennsylvania law.

The plaintiff ultimately did not dispute that fact witness, Mr. Daugherty, did not start working at the Beaver Valley Power Station until after Mr. Gay had left the facility. However, the plaintiff then cited to Mueller’s discovery responses from an unrelated case, and its prior corporate representative testimony, arguing that Mueller did manufacture strainers. Notwithstanding, upon consideration of the proofs submitted, the court held that the plaintiff failed to properly identify Mueller’s products, and as such, the plaintiff failed to establish that Mr. Gay was ever around a Muller product, let alone on any regular, frequent, and proximate basis. Additionally, neither the plaintiff’s experts nor Mr. Gay himself ever discussed Mueller products. As such, summary judgment was warranted.

Read the full decision here.