Floor maker says lawyers' theories fall short in NYC asbestos case

By John O'Brien | Nov 2, 2018

New York County Supreme Court  

NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) – The maker of floor tiles sued for a man’s asbestos-caused disease says all exposures to the deadly substance are not equal, using a 2015 state court decision that favored companies sued in the long-running mass tort.

American Biltrite on Oct. 29 asked a judge in New York City’s controversial asbestos court to grant judgment in its favor in the lawsuit of Thomas and Lorraine Mantovi, who alleged Thomas was exposed to asbestos in flooring made by the company’s Amtico division.

Amtico was one of the six primary makers of flooring that contained asbestos. But the company argues the specific type of asbestos used in its products would not have been much of a factor in the development of Mantovi’s mesothelioma.

“Despite decades’ worth of research into asbestos and asbestos-related diseases, Plaintiffs’ experts have failed to offer ANY evidence in a methodology generally accepted in the scientific community which demonstrates bystander work around floor tile, containing encapsulated chrysotile asbestos as a component, can be sufficient to cause pleural mesothelioma in the general population; because NO such association exists,” the company’s motion says.

Justin Reinhardt of Kurowski Shultz is representing American Biltrite  

Mantovi’s deposition took place over four days in April 2017, and the parts relevant to American Biltrite stated he inspected buildings for State Farm from 1967-72, during which time he was exposed to Amtico floor tiles.

But he also alleged exposure during various other jobs. He was a printing assistant who worked with asbestos printing material from 1963-64 and then moved on to a service station where he worked near brakes, mufflers and clutches.

He worked at an oil refinery as a clerk around insulated pumps. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1965 and worked around insulated piping, valves, boilers and other equipment.

American Biltrite says that when he worked for State Farm, Mantovi did not actually work with the floor tile.

Many of the companies named in early asbestos lawsuits have established bankruptcy trusts. American Biltrite says plaintiffs lawyers now seek still-solvent companies that had little or nothing to do with their clients’ illnesses.

In many states, courts have wrestled with the theory that each and every exposure to asbestos was a contributing factor to the illness. Some have ruled they do, but some say the exposure needs to meet a threshold to be considered substantial enough to hold a company liable.

In 2015, the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, rejected the “any exposure” theory, a rare win for asbestos defendants in the state. The docket known as NYCAL (New York City Asbestos Litigation) has long been considered a trouble area for companies, a reputation that has only grown with the new threat of punitive damages in these cases.

In Mantovi’s case, plaintiffs attorneys at Weitz & Luxenberg have not established the requisite causation standard required to continue their case against American Biltrite, the company says.

“Faced with the lack of scientifically supported data showing exposure to low dose encapsulated chrysotile products can cause disease, plaintiffs rely on the ‘single exposure,’ ‘any exposure’ or ‘cumulative exposure’ theories,” the company wrote.

“Those theories are all manifestations of the same faulty premise: that there is ‘no safe dose’ for a carcinogen. Those theories do not attempt, and even disdain the need, to quantify or qualify dose or exposure levels relating to individual types of products and ignore the requirement that the product at issue, not asbestos generally, be a substantial factor in bringing about the injury or that exposure cannot be slight or trivial.”

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Organizations in this Story

Amtico International Inc. Kurowski & Schultz New York City Asbestos Litigation New York Court of Appeals Weitz and Luxenberg

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