Plaintiff can't link harmful asbestos exposure to defendant, court rules

Michael P. Tremoglie Dec. 6, 2011, 2:27pm


PHILADELPHIA (Legal Newsline) - U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno granted summary judgment Thursday for the defendant in a case transferred from California as part the asbestos multidistrict litigation in Pennsylvania's eastern district.

The summary judgment was granted for the defendant, Advocate Mines, Ltd., in the case because the plaintiffs were unable to present evidence of product identification. The plaintiffs' only product identification witness did not succeed in identifying the defendant at all.

The case had been transferred to the eastern district from the United States District Court for the Central District of California in December 2009. The plaintiff's attorneys argued that California law should have been applicable in this case. The court ruled that Maritime Law should apply since the case in involved a U.S. Navy worker.

The court ruled that a mere "minimal exposure" to a defendant's product is insufficient to establish causation.

It cited case law that said, "Likewise, a mere showing that defendant's product was present somewhere at plaintiff's place of work is insufficient." It instead said that the plaintiff must show "a high enough level of exposure that an inference that the asbestos was a substantial factor in the injury is more than conjectural." California provides that a plaintiff need only show (1) some threshold exposure and (2) that the exposure "in reasonable medical probability was a substantial factor in contributing to the aggregate dose of asbestos."

Ultimately the case was determined on the basis of the lack of product identification. The inability to identify the defendant or the defendant's products meant there was no case under either "maritime or California law" the judge wrote in his opinion.

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