Heather Isringhausen Gvillo Oct. 5, 2014, 9:59pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Legal Newsline) – A North Carolina federal judge has concluded that summary judgment was proper for seven defendants in an asbestos lawsuit after the claimant failed to respond to any of the defendants’ motions.

Judge Martin Reidinger’s Sept. 23 order granting summary judgment came out of the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, concluding that “all seven of the defendants’ forecasts of evidence is sufficient to establish that no genuine dispute exists as to any of the material facts.”

Plaintiff Ralph O’Neil Starnes alleged he was exposed to asbestos from 1956 through the 1980s while working as a control fitter for Powers Regulatory Company, Robert Shaw Controls Company and Honeywell Company, which caused him to develop mesothelioma.

As part of his job, Starnes installed and repaired pneumatic controls for heating and cooling systems and repaired and installed compressors manufactured by some of the defendants. He alleges the repair work involved asbestos-containing products.

Six of the defendants raised the same issue in their motions for summary judgment.

Defendants FMC Corporation, on behalf of its former subsidiaries Crosby Value and Peerless Pump; Sterling Fluid Systems; Ingersoll Rand Company; Gardner Denver; and Trane U.S. Inc. claimed they were entitled to summary judgment because Starnes failed to provide any evidence showing he was exposed to their products, meaning they were not responsible for causing his mesothelioma.

The court held that because Starnes did not respond to the requests for summary judgment, it is undisputed that the necessary evidence of causation linking these defendants to Starnes’ contraction of mesothelioma is absent.

“Thus, there being no genuine issue of any material fact in dispute, the court will grant the six defendants’ summary judgment motions,” Reidinger wrote.

Defendant Watts Walter Technologies, Inc., argued that summary judgment was proper because Starnes failed to present evidence supporting the theory on which he sued Watts.

Starnes sole claim against Watts alleges it was the legal successor to the “Powers Regulatory Company.”

However, Watts contended the plaintiffs failed to produce evidence that Watts is the true successor in interest to Starnes’ former employer. It further argued that it did not acquire the business assets of Powers Regulatory.

Watts explained that in October 1977, Mark Controls Corporation acquired the assets of Powers Regulatory.

Then in 1985, the Powers Regulatory business was incorporated as a subsidiary of Old Mark, and named MCC Powers.

Two years later, Old Mark entered into a series of transactions resulting in a merger into Landis & Gyr Powers, Inc.

However, prior to its merger, “Old Mark ‘carved out’ certain valve-related assets, which are the only assets of the former Powers Regulatory business that were ultimately transferred to Watts.”

Therefore, the business Starnes worked for was passed to Landis, not Watts.

“As such, it is undisputed that the necessary evidence of causation linking Watts to Mr. Starnes’ contraction of mesothelioma is absent for the purposes of Watts’ motion,” Reidinger wrote.

As a result, the court granted Watts’ summary judgment motion.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Heather Isringhausen Gvillo at asbestos@legalnewsline.com

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