Clay v. Johns-Manville Sales Corp.

722 F.2d 1289 (6th Cir. 1983)

 

RULE:

If it appears that in the former suit a party having a like motive to cross-examine about the same matters as the present party would have, was accorded an adequate opportunity for such examination, the testimony may be received against the present party. Under these circumstances, the previous party having like motive to develop the testimony about the same material facts is, in the final analysis, a predecessor in interest to the present party. 

FACTS:

In these two cases plaintiffs John Ed Clay and Curtis Bailey, each joined by his wife, brought actions for damages against defendants Johns-Manville Sales Corporation and Raybestos-Manhattan, Inc., on the basis of products liability claims resulting from plaintiffs' exposure to asbestos containing products manufactured by the defendants. The cases were tried in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee and ended in jury verdicts for the defendants. Plaintiffs challenged the decision of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, which entered judgment in favor of defendants in actions for damages against them on the basis of products liability claims resulting from plaintiffs' exposure to asbestos-containing products manufactured by defendants.

ISSUE:

Can an unrelated party be considered a predecessor in interest, for purposes of the former testimony exception to the hearsay rule?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

The court held that an amendment to Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-28-103(b), which made a 10-year statute of limitations inapplicable to asbestos exposure actions was not made ineffective by the state vested rights doctrine. Therefore, the court ruled that the district court erred in allowing the statute of limitations issue to go to the jury under a charge that allowed them to base a verdict for defendants on the 10-year statutory ceiling on products liability cases, and the judgment was vacated and remanded for retrial. The court also held that a deposition of deceased medical expert in asbestos disease taken in an earlier proceeding should be admitted on retrial because the record established that the defendants in the prior case had a similar motive in confronting the expert's testimony to that of defendant. The court finally rejected plaintiffs' claim that they were entitled to summary judgment on the basis of collateral estoppel as the defendant was not a party to the earlier asbestos litigation, but suggested that plaintiffs be given opportunity to prove that they were entitled to the use of the doctrine of offensive collateral estoppel upon retrial.

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