Micarta Maker’s Motion for Summary Judgment Against Third Party Plaintiff Avondale Dismissed | Goldberg Segalla

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United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, September 6, 2022

Plaintiff Ora Adams alleges that her husband, Lional Adams, was exposed to asbestos at the Defendant’s Avondale shipyards in the New Orleans area in the 1970s when Mr. Adams was employed as pipefitter and welder. She maintains that this work resulted in the formation of asbestos dust on her clothes, which Mr Adams wore at home and which Ms Adams would shake out before washing them. Ms Adams alleges that exposure caused her lung cancer and brought a lawsuit against various defendants, including Avondale.

Avondale filed a third-party lawsuit against Westinghouse as the alleged manufacturer of asbestos-containing fire-retardant decorative micarta (“Micarta”), seeking to recover an equity contribution from Westinghouse if it was found liable for Mr. Adam’s injuries.

Westinghouse seeks summary judgment on the grounds that Avondale has no evidence that Mr. and Mrs. Adams were exposed to asbestos from any product or equipment manufactured, sold or supplied by Westinghouse.

Avondale argues that Westinghouse’s motion for summary judgment should be dismissed because there are various disputed facts, including:

(1) Whether Westinghouse developed and manufactured Micarta containing asbestos for use on board ships until the 1970s. (2) Whether co-defendant, Hopeman, Brothers Inc. (“Hopeman”) cut and installed Micarta-coated wall panels on Avondale ships, generating dust. (3) Whether Mr. or Mrs. Adams has experienced household exposure to asbestos dust as a result of Mr. Adam’s work near Hopeman employees at Avondale. (4) Whether Mrs. Adam’s exposure to Micarta was a significant factor in her development of lung cancer.

To prevail over the factual element in asbestos cases where multiple causes of exposure are alleged, it must be proven that the plaintiff: (1) had significant exposure to asbestos attributable to the defendant, and (2) suffered an injury that was “substantially caused” by that exposure.

With respect to the first item, Avondale pointed to Mr. Adams’ deposition testimony where he said he frequently worked alongside Hopeman employees on ships under construction at Avondale. Avondale also cited Hopeman’s deposition testimony

company representative, where he testified that Micarta was cut and used without ventilation at Avondale.

In response, Westinghouse argued that the company representative did not distinguish between Micarta containing asbestos and Micarta without asbestos. The court said that while Westinghouse’s argument may be true, it must refrain from assessing the credibility of the evidence when assessing the existence of a material fact.

With respect to the second element, Avondale cited the deposition testimony of expert witness Brent Staggs, MD, who concluded that “any paraprofessional exposure to asbestos Adams suffered as a result of working around wall panels would.” . . to be a substantial contributory cause of his development of lung cancer.

The court said this testimony is sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Westinghouse Micarta was a substantial cause of Ms. Adam’s injury.

For these reasons, the court found that Avondale had provided sufficient evidence to raise genuine issues of material fact and denied Westinghouse’s motion for summary judgment.

Read the full decision here

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