By David Yucht, J.D.
A supervisor at the aftermarket parts and service department of a bus manufacturing plant allegedly was exposed to asbestos from used Bendix brakes replaced as part of a warranty program.
A state appeals panel in Ohio found that genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether a worker was exposed to asbestos from Bendix brake products and, if so, whether that exposure was a substantial factor in causing his mesothelioma and death. Consequently, the appellate court reversed the trial court’s granting of summary judgment in favor of Honeywell International, Inc., Bendix’s successor, and remanded the case for further proceedings (Maddy v. Honeywell International Inc., August 6, 2020, Gallagher, E.).
A worker allegedly was exposed to asbestos-containing Bendix brake products when working at a bus manufacturing facility in Ohio from 1980 through 1996. He worked as a supervisor in the aftermarket parts and service department. As a supervisor, he allegedly handled brake parts, including loose brake linings, which contained asbestos. Additionally, he allegedly was exposed to asbestos during the drilling, grinding and chiseling of used Bendix brake linings that were returned to his employer’s facility under its warranty return/core exchange program, as well as during the riveting of new Bendix brake linings onto the used brake shoes and heavy grinding and chiseling of used Bendix brake linings. He subsequently developed terminal mesothelioma. His estate sued Honey well for, among other things, negligence, product defect under Ohio’s product liability statute, and "willful and wanton conduct, "asserting that his exposure to Bendix brakes was a substantial factor in the decedent’s developing mesothelioma. The trial court granted the manufacturer’s motion for summary judgment on causation grounds. The estate appealed.
Asbestos exposure. The appellate court reversed the trial court and reinstated the case. The court found that genuine issues of fact existed as to whether the decedent was exposed to asbestos-containing Bendix brake products while working for the bus manufacturer and whether his exposure to these products was of a sufficient manner, proximity, frequency and duration to be a substantial factor in causing his mesothelioma Based on Ohio law, the estate needed to demonstrate, by a preponderance of evidence, that the decedent was "exposed to asbestos" that was "manufactured, supplied, installed, or used by" Bendix and that his exposure was a "substantial factor" in causing his mesothelioma.
Here, there was evidence that the decedent was exposed to asbestos from Bendix brake linings when used asbestos-containing Bendix brake linings were "drilled, ground and chiseled into dust" as they were being removed. Moreover, he was exposed to asbestos when new asbestos-containing Bendix brake linings were riveted onto the used brake shoes returned under the warranty return/core exchange program. The estate produced testimony of a co-worker who saw" Bendix logos" on some of the used brakes returned to the facility under the warranty return/core exchange program. Even if, however, the co-worker had not personally seen Bendix logos on used brakes, he testified that the used brake cores were "returned" as part of the company’s warranty return/core exchange program and that Bendix brake linings were original equipment on the company’s buses. Furthermore, there was no evidence that the decedent was exposed to any other asbestos-containing products to consider when determining whether his exposure to Bendix brake products was a substantial factor in causing his mesothelioma.
The cases are Nos. 108698 and 109066.
Attorneys: Paul W. Flowers (Paul W. Flowers Co., L.P.A.) for Barbara Maddy. Steven G. Blackmer (Willman & Silvaggio, L.L.P) and Michael W. Weaver (McDermott Will & Emery L.L.P.) for Honeywell International Inc.
Companies: Honeywell International Inc.
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