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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Mo. judge critical of summary judgment arguments in asbestos case

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Sep 24, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Legal Newsline) – A Missouri federal judge has ruled that no case law and only one paragraph supporting a defendant’s argument for summary judgment is not sufficient to win summary judgment in an asbestos lawsuit.

Judge Greg Kays filed the order denying the motion for summary judgment on Sept. 12 in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

Plaintiffs John and Beth New filed a four-count asbestos suit in Jackson County, Mo., state court, before defendant Ford Motor Company removed the case to district court alleging diversity jurisdiction.

They allege John developed lung cancer after being exposed to asbestos while working at various automobile parts and repair shops throughout Kansas and Missouri.

Defendant Hennessy Industries requested summary judgment under Missouri law in November.

Subsequently, defendant Federal Mogul Asbestos Personal Injury Trust also moved for summary judgment under Kansas law. The News failed to respond to Federal-Mogul’s arguments.

Although both defendants requested summary judgment, Kays only addressed Hennessy’s motion in his order, denying the request for now.

Because each defendant argued for the application of two separate laws, the court requested supplemental briefing.

However, Kays held that the parties’ supplemental briefing lacked sufficient legal authority and arguments for the court to effectively decide Hennessy’s motion for summary judgment.

He added that he cannot determine whether a conflict exists between Missouri and Kansas law on the various liability issues raised in Hennessy’s motions, and “if a conflict does exist, how Missouri courts would apply its choice-of-law principles to determine what state has the most significant relationship to this asbestos-related personal injury suit.”

Kays explained that the parties only make general citations to overarching principles from Missouri case law without providing any discussion or citation of other cases to support their positions.

In fact, neither party provided more than a paragraph discussion supporting their opposing positions in regards to the issue of whether a conflict exists.

Furthermore, when addressing the significant relationship analysis, the parties merely cite the restatement factors without providing any case law or comments on how the factors apply to this case.

“These issues are somewhat complex and nuanced, thus requiring more in-depth legal analysis,” Kays said.

In addition to Hennessy’s arguments in the supplemental brief, the defendant expanded its summary judgment argument by also claiming summary judgment is proper under Kansas law.

Kays stated that it was inappropriate to raise this argument for the first time in the supplemental brief, because it denied plaintiffs the opportunity to respond to the new argument.

Kays wrote that because there are numerous other defendants involved in the suit that could be impacted by the court’s choice-of-law analysis, it is hesitant to just apply Missouri law, assuming it is constitutionally permissible.

“Given the importance of this decision, the court requires more thorough and legally supported discussion form Hennessy and plaintiffs before ruling upon the merits of Hennessy’s motion,” Kays wrote.

He added that when the parties thoroughly develop their arguments for summary judgment, they should cite cases relying upon authority from courts interpreting Missouri law as well as “persuasive, on-point” authority from other jurisdictions.

Because of what he called insufficient arguments, Kays concluded that “the best course of action” is to deny the summary judgment request and allow Hennessy to refile its supplemental brief.

“This will afford the parties sufficient time to more thoroughly research and analyze the potential choice-of-law issue, while also providing plaintiffs the opportunity to respond to arguments advanced in Hennessy’s most recent filing,” he wrote.

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

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