Summary Judgment to American Oil Company Defendants Upheld on Appeal Pursuant to Sabetian

Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate Division, April 20, 2021

The plaintiff appealed from an entry of summary judgment to defendants Chevron Corporation, Chevron U.S.A., Inc., and Texaco, Inc. and Exxon Mobil Corporation and ExxonMobil Corporation. The plaintiff alleged that he was exposed to asbestos while an Iranian citizen working for the National Iranian Oil Company from the late 1950s to 1980, in facilities controlled by the defendants. On the defendants motions for summary judgment, the trial court found that they did not owe a duty of care to the plaintiff. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the Chevron and Exxon defendants did owe him a duty of care due to their predecessors’ control over the Abadan refinery in which the plaintiff worked, and because of a 1954 contractual agreement between the Iranian government and a consortium of international oil companies, including the defendants.

During the pendency of this appeal, the Second Appellate Division issued its decision in Sabetian v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, reported in Asbestos Case Tracker here, which held that the defendants’ predecessors did not owe a duty of care to protect refinery workers from asbestos hazards at the Abadan refinery. In Sabetian, the court found that neither the agreement nor the plaintiffs’ evidence was sufficient to create a triable issue of fact that the defendants’ predecessors exercised direct control over the day-to-day refinery operations. The parties in this case were invited to file supplemental letter briefs addressing Sabetian, which they did. However, the court concluded in this case—for the same reasons set forth in Sabetian—that the Chevron and Exxon defendants did not owe a duty of care to the plaintiff, and affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment.

Read the full decision here.