Supreme Court of the State of New York, Nassau County, May 12, 2021
The plaintiff in this matter was a career auto-mechanic. He alleged asbestos exposure from car parts manufactured by various defendants, including Ford and Mercedes, caused his lung cancer.
Ford and Mercedes each filed summary judgement motions alleging that (1) the plaintiff could not establish specific exposure and (2) that the causation opinions of the plaintiff’s experts should be precluded. Ford sought an order for a Frye hearing while Mercedes sought a hearing pursuant to Parker v. Mobile. Ford presented expert opinions noting that the plaintiff was exposed to chrysotile asbestos—a less dangerous form of asbestos—in a quantity that would not have been harmful. Furthermore, the opinions stated that the plaintiff’s alleged exposure from Ford clutches would be less dangerous compared to other exposure sources. Finally, Ford’s experts reasoned that the plaintiff’s smoking history, second-hand smoke exposure, and family medical history were the causes of his lung cancer.
Mercedes presented expert opinions noting that most of the Mercedes models that the plaintiff encountered did not contain any asbestos. Moreover, if the plaintiff did encounter these models, the risk of harmful exposure was low and the use of asbestos on these specific models was phased out decades ago. The expert opinions also attributed the plaintiff’s extensive smoking history as the cause of his lung cancer.
The court found that Ford and Mercedes did not submit sufficient evidence to demonstrate the absence of a material issue of fact. Regarding Ford, the court noted that the plaintiff pointed to numerous examples of working with different Ford products, and that even if the type of alleged asbestos exposure was less dangerous, the plaintiff was exposed on enough occasions where harm could be found. Regarding Mercedes, the court noted that the plaintiff was likely exposed to the asbestos-containing products enough where harm cannot be ruled out. Finally, in response to both motions, the court specified that issues relating to the foundation of the plaintiff’s expert testimony is more appropriate as a motion in liminie at trial, where there is an opportunity for cross-examination. The court noted that the plaintiff’s experts have given opinions in other asbestos cases and neither Ford or Mercedes cited to any cases where the expert opinion was omitted due to a foundational issue. For these reasons, summary judgement for both defendants was denied.