California Appeals Court Reverses Summary Judgment, Allows Asbestos Wrongful Death Case To Proceed

A California appeals court today reversed summary judgment that had been granted in favor of asbestos defendant Metalclad Insulation Corporation (“Metalclad”), holding that Metalclad did not satisfy its burden of proof as the moving party on summary judgment, and that the plaintiffs raised fact issues that must be tried to a jury.

Plaintiffs’ decedent, Mark Ganoe, was a utility worker for the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company plant in Los Angeles from 1968 until 1979. Ganoe, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2010, filed the underlying lawsuit three months later alleging that his asbestos exposure occurred during his work at the Goodyear plant. Ganoe then died during the pendency of the lawsuit and the case was converted to a survival and wrongful death action. Metalclad, one of the defendants Ganoe and his survivors sued for allegedly exposing him to asbestos, successfully moved the trial court for summary judgment by arguing that plaintiffs had no evidence that Ganoe was exposed to any asbestos as a result of Metalclad’s conduct at the Goodyear plant, even after plaintiffs identified Metalclad’s own documents and testimony demonstrating otherwise.

In reinstating the case, the California appellate court held that contrary to Metalclad’s arguments, plaintiffs’ discovery responses contained “‘specific facts’ showing that Metalclad had exposed Ganoe to asbestos in 1974 by removing asbestos-containing insulation in . . . the Goodyear plaint while he was present.” There was no inference “that the plaintiffs could not prove causation,” contrary to the lower court’s finding and Metalclad’s arguments. The appeals court held the case “presents more than mere speculation of causation” of Ganoe’s mesothelioma. The court of appeals also awarded plaintiffs their costs on appeal.