JOHN A. PARKINS, Jr., Judge.
Plaintiff, Reed Grgich, worked in various capacities at International Smelting and Refining ("International") in Tooele, Utah from 1963-1973. Plaintiff alleges asbestos exposure from Defendant's, Crane Co. ("Crane"), valves. Defendant moves for summary judgment on product nexus grounds and asserts the "component parts defense" as grounds for not owing a duty to Plaintiff for asbestos-containing parts added to its products after market. Based on the reasoning below summary judgment is
Plaintiff worked as a laborer, machinist, and foreman at International in Tooele, Utah from 1963-1973. He identified Crane as one of several manufactures of valves on which he worked in both machinist and foreman capacities. He worked on the insulation and the packing of the valves which he contends exposed him to asbestos dust. The valves were installed at International before Plaintiff began working there. He did not know the prior maintenance history of the valves or whether he ever did work on original manufacturer's parts. He also did not know the manufacturer of the packing, gaskets, or insulation he removed and replaced.
Plaintiffs point to some documentation that indicates at least some of Defendant's valves contained asbestos, and Defendant admits as much in its discovery responses. Plaintiffs also point to two catalogues that they contend support their position that Crane recommended asbestos containing parts for its products. One of the catalogues is dated June 1923—forty years before Plaintiff started working at International. Another catalogue is undated. Plaintiff does not connect either catalogue to the actual valves on which Plaintiff worked at International. Plaintiff also points to transcripts of depositions of Crane corporate representatives in which they discuss the use of Crane replacement parts, but again those statements are not connected to the specific valves in this case. The record contains no evidence of the specific types of valves on which Plaintiff worked. Plaintiff does not direct the court to any document or testimony in which Defendant requires or recommends asbestos containing replacement parts for the valves on which Plaintiff actually worked.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
In considering a motion for summary judgment the court views the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and will only grant summary judgment when "the moving party has demonstrated that there are no material issues of fact in dispute and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
There was considerable discussion during oral argument about how the burden should be applied to establishing that Plaintiff came in contact with original asbestos-containing parts attributable to Crane valves. Judge Slights examined the burden issue for Asbestos cases in In re Abestos Litigation: Helm.
In assessing the non-moving party's burden the court considers, "`Whether a reasonable juror could find by a preponderance of the evidence that the plaintiff is entitled to a verdict-whether there is [evidence] upon which a jury can properly proceed to find a verdict for the party producing it, upon whom the onus of proof is imposed.'"
Where, as here, a motion for summary judgment is premised on an assumption that the plaintiff did not work on original asbestos-containing parts, the moving party must offer evidence supporting a reasonable inference that the original asbestos parts were no longer on the valve at the time the plaintiff worked on it. The mere age of the device, without more, is insufficient to support such an inference for purposes of summary judgment.
PRODUCT NEXUS ANALYSIS
Special Master Boyer held Utah law is the governing substantive law in this case.
The Sortor court later clarified in a subsequent opinion in the same case that it did not and would not set "a dosage or exposure requirement" for a plaintiff to meet the substantial factor test.
Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, a reasonable jury could infer that Plaintiff worked on Crane valves, which contained asbestos-containing parts when sold to International. The issue is whether those were original parts. Plaintiff has the burden at trial of establishing that Plaintiff worked with original asbestos-containing products manufactured by Defendant and was thus exposed to asbestos. However, at this stage the initial burden rests with Defendant to show the undisputed facts support a finding in its favor as a matter of law.
Utah courts have not addressed the specific issue before the court— whether Crane owes a duty to Plaintiff for asbestos-containing products added to its products after sale. Therefore, the court must predict how the Utah Supreme Court would rule on this issue.
The court recently discussed several cases and found the majority trend is that generally product manufacturers do not owe a duty for asbestos-containing products added to its products after sale.
The California Supreme Court recently followed the majority trend.
This court previously examined this issue under a design defect cause of action in In re Asbestos Litigation Wesley K. Davis
Judge Ableman granted summary judgment.
Similarly, the court finds under Utah law Defendant is not liable under a failure to warn claim for asbestos-containing products added to its products after sale. Plaintiff has not provided evidence in the record that Defendant specified, required, or recommended asbestos-containing products be added to its products on which Plaintiff actually worked. Accordingly, summary judgment is
The court finds here that under Utah law Defendant does not owe Plaintiff a duty for asbestos-containing parts used with or added to its products after sale. Accordingly, summary judgment is