Supplier of Asbestos for Joint Compound Denied Summary Judgment U.S. District Court for Eastern District of North Carolina, Eastern Division, September 21, 2016
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina denied the motion for summary judgment of defendant Union Carbide Corporation in a case involving alleged exposure to raw asbestos fiber allegedly in joint compound. James Lee was a painter in North Carolina from the late 1960s into the 2000s, and during that time the plaintiffs allege that Lee applied and sanded asbestos-containing joint compound to finish drywall, as well as sanded and swept joint compound. Sanding joint compound created a dust, which would cake in Lee’s hair, on his face, and on his clothes. Lee stated that he worked primarily with U.S. Gypsum joint compound and Georgia-Pacific ready-mix joint compound throughout his painting career, and sanded it on every job he did while working for employers between 1970 and 1974 or 75. Lee worked on approximately 150 to 200 jobs involving joint compound during that time frame. The plaintiffs allege that Lee’s exposures to asbestos caused his mesothelioma.
Union Carbide moved for summary judgment, contending that plaintiffs failed to present evidence establishing proximate causation. The court, viewing the facts in a light most favorable to the plaintiffs, found that the plaintiffs had proffered sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Lee was exposed to Union Carbide’s asbestos on a regular basis over an extended period of time. The court referenced evidence demonstrating that Union Carbide had supplied its Calidria asbestos to both Georgia-Pacific and U.S. Gypsum for manufacture of their joint compounds during the relevant time period. Finally, the court noted that plaintiffs proffered sufficient evidence to resist summary judgment that Union Carbide’s failure to warn Georgia-Pacific and U.S. Gypsum of the dangers of its Calidria product was a proximate cause of Lee’s mesothelioma.