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Supreme Court of Texas
February 7, 2008, Argued; October 22, 2010, Opinion Delivered
[*128] The issue we address in this case is whether a statute that limits certain corporations' successor liability for personal injury claims of asbestos exposure violates the prohibition against retroactive laws [*129] contained in article I, section 16 of the Texas Constitution 1 as applied to a pending action. We hold that it does, and therefore reverse the judgment of the court of appeals 2 and remand the case to the trial court.
In 2002, petitioner Barbara Robinson ("Robinson") and her husband, John, Texas residents, filed suit alleging that John, age 63, had [**2] contracted mesothelioma from workplace exposure to asbestos products. As often happens, John had used several such products over the course of his life, and the Robinsons sued twenty-one defendants, including respondent Crown Cork & Seal Co., alleging that they were all jointly and severally liable. With respect to Crown, the Robinsons claimed that during John's service in the United States Navy from 1956 to 1976, he worked with asbestos insulation manufactured by the Mundet Cork Corporation, and that when Crown and Mundet merged, Crown succeeded to Mundet's liabilities.
Crown has never itself engaged in the manufacture or sale of asbestos products. 3 It manufactures metal bottle-caps, known in the industry as "crowns", and other packaging for consumer goods. Crown and its affiliates have over 20,000 employees around the world, about 1,000 of whom work in Texas at facilities in Conroe, Sugar Land, and Abilene. In 2009, the parent company reported $ 1.193 billion gross profit on $ 7.938 billion net sales. 4
In November 1963, Crown's predecessor, a New York corporation with the same name, which was then the nation's largest manufacturer of crowns, acquired a majority of the stock in Mundet, another New York corporation, which besides insulation, also manufactured crowns. Within ninety days, in February 1964, Mundet sold all its assets related to its insulation business. Two years later, in February 1966, the companies merged. In 1989, Crown's predecessor was reincorporated as Crown, a Pennsylvania corporation.
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335 S.W.3d 126 *; 2010 Tex. LEXIS 796 **; 54 Tex. Sup. J. 71
BARBARA ROBINSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF JOHN ROBINSON, DECEASED, PETITIONER, v. CROWN CORK & SEAL CO., INC., INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SUCCESSOR TO MUNDET CORK CORPORATION, RESPONDENT
Subsequent History: Released for Publication April 29, 2011.
Prior History: [**1] ON PETITION FOR REVIEW FROM THE COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTEENTH DISTRICT OF TEXAS.
Robinson v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., 251 S.W.3d 520, 2006 Tex. App. LEXIS 3717 (Tex. App. Houston 14th Dist., 2006)
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