Minn. court rules for defendants in asbestos suit

Jessica M. Karmasek Aug. 30, 2011, 12:11pm

ST. PAUL, Minn. (Legal Newsline) - A Minnesota district judge has ruled in favor of two pump manufacturers that were sued by the family of a man who died of mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, in 2008.

In two separate decisions filed Aug. 16 and Aug. 19, Second Judicial District Court Judge Dale B. Lindman granted summary judgment to defendants IMO Industries Inc. and Warren Pumps LLC.

Plaintiff Hilaria Nelson, on behalf of Donald Nelson, sued IMO and Warren, alleging that Donald contracted mesothelioma as a result of asbestos-containing products manufactured by the two companies.

Hilaria Nelson alleges that Donald worked with and around the asbestos-containing turbines and pumps during his service in the U.S. Navy, while aboard the USS Shelton.

Donald served aboard the ship from 1959 to 1963 as a second class petty officer. He was a firearm apprentice and boiler tender whose duties included acting as the manager of personnel and equipment in the ship's aft fireroom.

He also was responsible for teaching the sailors under him how to maintain the equipment in the fireroom and for checking the equipment for lubrication, leaks and other deficient conditions.

In performing those tasks, Donald was allegedly exposed to asbestos-containing pumps and turbines -- the asbestos being released in the removal and replacement of asbestos-containing gaskets, packing and insulation from fire and bilge and emergency feed pumps.

Defendant IMO contends that the plaintiff failed to meet her burden of proof to show that any asbestos-containing products that Donald was exposed to while aboard the USS Shelton were manufactured, supplied or sold by IMO or that IMO had control over such products.

IMO now owns Delaval Steam Turbine Co., whose pumps were present in the ship's firerooms.

Defendant Warren also contends that the plaintiff is unable to show exposure to or causation by an asbestos-containing product sold or distributed by the company.

Lindman, in his decision for IMO, agreed with the company that the plaintiff did not meet her burden to produce evidence to support a finding that the asbestos-containing gaskets, packing or insulation found on the Delaval pumps after Donald arrived on the ship were manufactured by Delaval or IMO.

"There is no evidence that any asbestos-containing materials supplied with the original Delaval pumps when they were installed in the 1940s would have been present when Mr. Nelson began working on the ship in 1959," the judge wrote.

"Even though the evidence suggests the parts installed in Delaval pumps contained asbestos, IMO/Delaval cannot be held liable for asbestos in parts or products manufactured by someone else."

Lindman said even though Delaval's own products contained asbestos when they were manufactured and even though the company may have known about the dangers of asbestos prior to Donald's exposure, Delaval had no duty to warn of the hazards associated with another manufacturer's product.

"Without any evidence to support a finding that the asbestos contained in the Delaval pumps when the pumps were manufactured and sold to the Navy was still present in the pumps when Mr. Nelson boarded the USS Shelton in 1959, it is impossible to conclude that IMO is liable for the injury to Mr. Nelson without relying on speculation or conjecture," the judge wrote.

As for Warren, Lindman said because some of the company's products were asbestos-containing does not mean that its products Donald worked with and around were asbestos-containing.

"Furthermore, it is not the pumps themselves that are alleged to have contained asbestos, but rather the component parts affixed to the pumps," he wrote.

"There is no evidence showing that Warren supplied to the Shelton asbestos-containing parts along with its pumps, nor is there evidence that Warren supplied any replacement parts used during the time he was aboard the Shelton."

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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