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Summary Judgment Denied as to Cloth and Boiler Manufacturers in Robichaux Mesothelioma Matter

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Court: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana

In ACT’s continuing coverage of the Robichaux mesothelioma matter pending in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, reported most recently here, before the court were two motions for summary judgment: one filed by defendant Uniroyal Holdings Incorporated and another filed by defendant Foster Wheeler LLC.

First, regarding Uniroyal, plaintiffs provided evidence showing that Uniroyal cloth was regularly and frequently used by and around insulators working at Avondale Shipyard during the plaintiff’s employment. Specifically, plaintiffs pointed to testimony from former Avondale employees who testified that the name “Uniroyal” was a “commonplace thing” on Avondale ships. Moreover, plaintiffs presented evidence that insulators frequently inhaled dust created from asbestos cloth, pointing to testimony provided by Uniroyal’s corporate representative who testified that cutting Uniroyal cloth could expose one to asbestos, and testimony provided by a former Avondale Shipyard employee who testified that he saw insulators cut asbestos cloth, which created dust that employees inhaled.

Finally, two of plaintiffs’ experts opined thatthe plaintiff’s exposure to Uniroyal asbestos cloth increased his risk of developing mesothelioma. For these reasons, the court found that a genuine issue of fact remained as to whether the plaintiff’s exposure to Uniroyal asbestos cloth was a substantial factor in causing his mesothelioma and, as such, summary judgment as to Uniroyal was inappropriate. 

Second, regarding Foster Wheeler, plaintiffs offered evidence showing that the plaintiff worked on or around Foster Wheeler boilers, pointing to the plaintiff’s deposition testimony that he worked in the boiler room on Lykes vessels, and Foster Wheeler’s corporate representative testimony stating that Foster Wheeler boilers were present on Lykes vessels. Moreover, plaintiffs’ medical causation expert, Dr. Brent Staggs, opined that the plaintiff’s exposure to insulation applied to Foster Wheeler boilers was a substantial contributing factor to the plaintiff’s development of mesothelioma. In opposition, Foster Wheeler argued that even if the plaintiff worked around Foster Wheeler boilers, Foster Wheeler was not liable for [] his development of mesothelioma because Foster Wheeler marine boilers, when supplied at Avondale, were supplied with no exterior insulation. The court found that Foster Wheeler’s argument failed because “there remain issues of fact as to whether Foster Wheeler supplied Avondale with asbestos-containing products to which plaintiff was exposed.” Specifically, the courtnoted testimony from a former Avondale boilermaker who testified that Foster Wheeler supplied “erection kits” that contained “every component going into the boiler,” including insulation materials. Thus, the court held that, at the very least, issues of facts remain as to whether Foster Wheeler supplied asbestos-containing insulation products within its boilers and denied summary judgment.

Read the full decision here.