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Hughes v. A.W. Chesterton Co.

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

September 17, 2013, Argued; April 23, 2014, Decided

DOCKET NO. A-0778-11T2, A-0779-11T2, A-4912-11T2, A-4913-11T2

Opinion

 [**182]  [*331]   The opinion of the court was delivered by

ESPINOSA, J.A.D.

In these consolidated cases, we consider whether a manufacturer has a duty to warn that component parts, which will be regularly replaced as part of routine maintenance, contain asbestos.  [*332]  Under the facts of this case, we find it would be reasonable, practical and feasible to impose such a duty here. However, we also reject plaintiffs' argument that causation may be proved by proximity to defendant's product in the absence of proof they were exposed to an asbestos-containing product manufactured or sold by defendant and, therefore, conclude  [***2] plaintiffs failed to make a prima facie showing of causation.

Plaintiffs Michael Greever, Elbert Hughes, Thomas Fayer,1 and Angelo Mystrena (collectively plaintiffs) appeal from orders that granted summary judgment to defendant Goulds Pumps, Inc. (Goulds), dismissing their claims with prejudice. The claims arise from plaintiffs' allegations that they contracted asbestos-related diseases as a result of their exposure to asbestos contained in component parts of pumps manufactured by Goulds.2

The facts are largely undisputed. The majority of the pumps manufactured by Goulds until 1985 contained asbestos in their gaskets and packing. Because the pumps have a long useful life, Goulds knew, at the time it introduced  [***3] the pumps into the marketplace, that these asbestos-containing parts would have to be replaced as part of routine maintenance. By the time plaintiffs worked in proximity to Goulds pumps, the original gaskets and packing had been replaced, and it is unknown who manufactured or supplied the replacement gaskets and packing.

All plaintiffs alleged that Goulds is strictly liable for its failure to warn because it was foreseeable that asbestos-containing products would be used when the gaskets and packing were replaced. In addition, Fayer and Mystrena assert that Goulds is liable on  [*333]  common law negligence grounds. Goulds submits that plaintiffs failed to show they were exposed to friable asbestos from a product it had manufactured, distributed, sold, or supplied  [**183]  and that this failure was fatal to their ability to present a prima facie case that Goulds was strictly liable. In addition, Goulds argues that strict liability principles are limited to those in the chain of distribution of the product that caused harm.

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435 N.J. Super. 326 *; 89 A.3d 179 **; 2014 N.J. Super. LEXIS 54 ***; 2014 WL 1613394

ELBERT HUGHES, PLAINTIFF—APPELLANT, v. A.W. CHESTERTON CO.; BRAND INSULATIONS, INC; FOSTER WHEELER CORP.; GARLOCK, INC.; METROPOLITAN LIFE; WESTINGHOUSE ELECTRIC CORP.; DURAMETALLIC CORP.; GENERAL ELECTRIC CO., AND MELRATH GASKET & SUPPLY, DEFENDANTS, AND GOULDS PUMPS, INC., DEFENDANT—RESPONDENT.MICHAEL GREEVER, PLAINTIFF—APPELLANT, v. A.W. CHESTERTON CO.; BRAND INSULATIONS, INC; FOSTER WHEELER CORP.; GARLOCK, INC.; METROPOLITAN LIFE; HOPEMAN BROTHERS, INC.; INGERSOLL—RAND CO. LTD.; MADSEN & HOWELL, INC.; DURAMETALLIC CORP.; WOOLSULATE CORP.; GENERAL ELECTRIC CO.; AND MELRATH GASKET & SUPPLY, DEFENDANTS, AND GOULDS PUMPS, INC., DEFENDANT—RESPONDENT.GREGORY FAYER, EXECUTOR OF THE ESTATE OF THOMAS FAYER, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF—APPELLANT, v. A.W. CHESTERTON CO.; BRAND INSULATIONS, INC; DURAMETALLIC CORP.; FOSTER WHEELER CORP.; GENERAL ELECTRIC CO.; METROPOLITAN LIFE; OWENS—ILLINOIS, INC.; HOPEMAN BROTHERS, INC.; MADSEN & HOWELL, INC.; WOOLSULATE CORP.; AND INGERSOLL—RAND CO. LTD., DEFENDANTS, AND GOULDS PUMPS, INC., DEFENDANT—RESPONDENT.ANGELO MYSTRENA AND KATHLEEN MYSTRENA, PLAINTIFFS—APPELLANTS, v. A.W. CHESTERTON CO.; BRAND INSULATIONS, INC; DURAMETALLIC CORP.; FOSTER WHEELER CORP.; METROPOLITAN LIFE; HOPEMAN BROTHERS, INC.; MADSEN & HOWELL, INC.; WOOLSULATE CORP.; AND INGERSOLL—RAND CO. LTD., DEFENDANTS, AND GOULDS PUMPS, INC., DEFENDANT—RESPONDENT.

Subsequent History:  [***1] Approved for Publication April 23, 2014.

Certification denied by Elbert Hughes v. A.W. Chesterton Co., 2014 N.J. LEXIS 1114 (N.J., Oct. 14, 2014)

Prior History: On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Docket Nos.L-5671-08, L-10779-08, L-5016-10, and L-4208-10.

CORE TERMS

manufacturer, asbestos, warning, pumps, replaced, exposure, products, gaskets, packing, foreseeable, replacement part, causation, exposed, summary judgment, component part, asbestos-containing, users, duty to warn, strictly liable, proximity, failure to warn, supplied, cases, grant summary judgment, chain of distribution, defective product, strict liability, plaintiffs', regular, product liability

Civil Procedure, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, General Overview, Appeals, Summary Judgment Review, Standards of Review, Torts, Products Liability, Theories of Liability, Negligence, Strict Liability, Types of Defects, Marketing & Warning Defects, Design Defects, Elements, Duty, Foreseeability of Harm, Theories of Liability, Types of Defects, Causation, Causation in Fact