Summary Judgment Granted to Automotive Manufacturer Due to Lack of Causation

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United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, February 18, 2020

MISSISSIPPI – The plaintiffs allege that the decedent, Beverly Bedford, developed mesothelioma from asbestos exposure through her work at Honda of Tupelo, a motorcycle dealership and service center she owned from the late 1970s to 2014. It is alleged that she was exposed to asbestos from Honda’s brakes, clutches, and gaskets. The decedent primarily worked in an office separate from the service shop area. Honda moved for summary judgment dismissing all of the plaintiffs’ claims.

Honda argued that summary judgment is warranted because the plaintiffs have presented no evidence that exposure to asbestos contained in a product manufactured, designed, or sold by the defendant was a substantial factor in proximately causing the decedents’ death, and that there are no remaining genuine issues of material fact. The court noted that, pursuant to the Mississippi Products Liability Act, the plaintiff in asbestos cases must prove three elements in order to establish liability: product identification, exposure to that product, and a proximate cause link between exposure to the defendant’s product and the decedent’s illness and death. Further, expert testimony is required in order to establish liability in product liability cases. The court found that the plaintiffs have failed to present any reliable expert testimony that the decedent was exposed to a harmful amount of asbestos from any products manufactured, sold, or designed by the defendant, or that any such exposure caused her illness and death. In fact, the plaintiff’s expert, Dr. Arthur Frank, testified at his deposition that he cannot opine whether the decedent’s illness was caused by any alleged asbestos exposure at Honda of Tupelo or by any of her other admitted exposures to asbestos from non-Honda products.

The court ruled that the plaintiffs have offered no evidence to support their claims or a finding that a genuine issue of material fact remains regarding the decedent’s alleged exposure to asbestos at Honda of Tupoelo, or that any such exposure was a substantial factor in causing her illness or death. Therefore, Honda’s motion for summary judgment was granted and the plaintiffs’ claims were dismissed.