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Riedel v. ICI Ams. Inc.

Supreme Court of Delaware

December 10, 2008, Submitted; March 4, 2009, Decided

No. 156, 2008

Opinion

 [*18]  STEELE, Chief Justice:

Lillian Riedel brought a negligence action in the Superior Court, alleging that her husband's employer of nearly thirty years, ICI Americas, Inc., failed to prevent her husband from taking asbestos home on his clothing and failed to warn her of the dangers of asbestos exposure. Mrs. Riedel claimed these failures to act proximately caused her to develop asbestosis. ICI timely moved for summary judgment. The trial judge granted the motion on the basis that ICI and Mrs. Riedel did not share a legally significant relationship that would create  [**2] a duty ICI owed to her.

In this appeal, Mrs. Riedel alleges that the trial judge erred by focusing on her relationship with ICI, rather than on the foreseeability of her harm. Contrary to her characterization of ICI's alleged misconduct to the trial judge (i.e., ICI's alleged failures to warn or prevent, which are fairly described as allegations of nonfeasance), Mrs. Riedel now claims that ICI acted affirmatively by releasing asbestos into the environment. She now describes  [*19]  ICI's alleged negligence as "nothing less than actively releas[ing] asbestos toxins out of its plant and into [her] home," which would constitute acts of misfeasance.

Because Mrs. Riedel presented a theory of negligence grounded in nonfeasance to the trial judge and did not fairly present a claim of misfeasance, she is precluded from arguing on appeal that the trial judge erred by analyzing ICI's summary judgment motion in terms of nonfeasance. We also find no merit to Mrs. Riedel's alternative argument that she and ICI shared a legally significant relationship. Therefore, we AFFIRM the trial judge's grant of summary judgment to ICI.

FACT AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

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968 A.2d 17 *; 2009 Del. LEXIS 106 **

LILLIAN RIEDEL, Plaintiff Below, Appellant, v. ICI AMERICAS INC., Defendant Below, Appellee.

Prior History:  [**1] Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware in and for New Castle County. C.A. No. 04C-07-099.

In re Asbestos Litig., 2007 Del. Super. LEXIS 413 (Del. Super. Ct., Dec. 21, 2007)

Disposition: AFFIRMED.

CORE TERMS

asbestos, trial judge, nonfeasance, misfeasance, sections, special relationship, significant relationship, clothes, warn, summary judgment, oral argument, no duty, terms, third person, courts, safe, physical harm, negligence action, foreseeable, employees, exposure, parties, patient

Civil Procedure, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, General Overview, Appeals, Summary Judgment Review, Standards of Review, Torts, Elements, Duty, Negligence, Affirmative Duty to Act, Failure to Act, Reviewability of Lower Court Decisions, Preservation for Review, Voluntary Assumption of Duty