Valve Manufacturer Granted Summary Judgment Under Maritime Law Where it May Have Recommended, But Did Not Provide, Asbestos-Containing Flange Gaskets U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Charleston Division, January 27, 2016
In this federal court case, it is alleged that the decedent, Thomas Dandridge, was exposed to asbestos while working as a pipefitter and coppersmith at the Charleston Naval Shipyard from 1965 to 1976. It was claimed that the decedent was exposed to asbestos from a variety of products, including flange gaskets used to link Crane Co. valves to pipe lines. The case was originally brought in the court of common pleas in Charleston County and was later removed federal court, where Crane moved for summary judgment.
Both parties agreed that the case was within the court’s admiralty jurisdiction and maritime law applied. The court set forth the application of the “bare metal” defense and highlighted that under maritime law, a manufacturer is not liable for asbestos-containing component and replacement parts that it did not manufacture or distribute. The plaintiff did not allege that the decedent worked with Carne asbestos-containing gaskets. It was the plaintiff’s argument that Crane had a duty to warn the decedent about asbestos exposure resulting from asbestos flange gaskets used with its valves and, as alleged by the plaintiff, that were recommend by Crane.
The court granted Crane’s motion holding: “Here, plaintiff has failed to present evidence that Crane’s manufacture and distribution of its valves made it inevitable that Dandridge would encounter asbestos-containing materials. At best, there appears to be evidence that some of Crane’s valves were designed to be used with asbestos-containing flange gaskets in certain high-heat applications and that Crane recommended the use of such gaskets. While such evidence may suggest that some of Crane’s valves ‘required’ asbestos-containing gaskets when used in high-heat applications and that Crane ‘provided specifications’ for such use, there is no evidence that Crane ‘actually incorporated asbestos-containing materials into the products it sold.” (internal citations omitted)