Summary judgment denied over contradicting evidence on warning labels in asbestos case

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Nov 10, 2014

PHILADELPHIA (Legal Newsline) – A Pennsylvania judge in the asbestos multidistrict litigation court has denied summary judgment on the grounds that sufficient evidence was provided and the parties presented contradicting evidence in regards to military specifications on warning labels.

Judge Eduardo Robreno filed the order on Sept. 29 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, but it wasn’t filed online until Nov. 3.

Plaintiff Donald Sellers alleges he was exposed to asbestos while serving in the Navy as a fireman aboard the USS Mann from 1954 to 1957. He was later diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of his exposure.

Sellers’ case was transferred from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina in June 2012.

Defendant Crane Co. manufactured valves that used asbestos-containing component parts supplied by third-party manufacturers. The defendant’s valves were often used aboard Navy vessels.

Because maritime law is applicable to this case, Crane Co. sought summary judgment arguing that according to maritime law, it has no duty to warn about asbestos hazards associated with products or component parts that it did not manufacture.

Crane Co. also asserts the government contractor defense by claiming it is immune from liability because the Navy exercised discretion and held “reasonably precise specifications” for the products in this case.

Furthermore, Crane Co. alleges it provided warnings that conformed to the Navy’s specifications, clarifying that the Navy knew about asbestos hazards.

Sellers, on the other hand, argues that summary judgment based on the government contractor defense is inappropriate.

In his deposition, he claims various military specifications show that the Navy did not prohibit Crane Co. from providing additional warnings with its product, leaving the “nature and provision” of warnings for defendant to determine.

He also argues that he provided sufficient evidence of product identification and causation to survive summary judgment.

In his deposition, Sellers testified that he was exposed to asbestos dust from asbestos-containing gaskets and packing used in Crane Co. valves aboard the USS Mann, including the original asbestos-containing component parts supplied by Crane Co.

Robreno agreed, concluding that a reasonable jury could conclude from the evidence that Sellers was exposed to asbestos from Crane Co.’s products and that his exposure was a substantial factor in causing his injury.

As for the argument on warnings, Robreno held that there is contradicting evidence as to whether the Navy required specific warnings or whether Crane Co. could use its own discretion.

Therefore, Robreno denied summary judgment on both grounds.

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

More News

The Record Network