Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Hinkley v. A.O. Smith Corp.

Superior Court of Rhode Island

March 13, 2017

BRENDA HINKLEY, Personal Representative of the Estate of RUDOLPH ALLEN, Deceased and DOROTHY ALLEN, His Wife, in her own right, Plaintiffs,
v.
A.O. SMITH CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.

         Providence County Superior Court

          For Plaintiff: Vincent L. Greene, IV, Esq.

          For Defendant: David A. Goldman, Esq. Nicholas J. Blei, Esq. Andrew R. McConville, Esq.

          DECISION

          GIBNEY, P.J.

         The Defendant Crane Co. (the Defendant or Crane) seeks summary judgment in the above-entitled personal injury matter brought by Plaintiffs Brenda Hinkley, Personal Representative of the Estate of Rudolph Allen, and Dorothy Allen, the Decedent's wife (Plaintiffs). The Defendant brings this motion under Maine Law, to which both parties agreed to in a Notice of No Opposition, dated November 16, 2016. The Defendant argues that there are no genuine issues of material fact remaining for trial. Additionally, the Defendant contends that the Plaintiffs have not offered, and have no reasonable expectation of offering, evidence that the Decedent was exposed to an asbestos-containing Crane product. Plaintiffs object to the motion, arguing that there are genuine issues of material fact. Further, the Plaintiffs maintain that their claims against the Defendant are viable because the use of asbestos products in relation to Crane's valves was foreseeable to the Defendant and, under a negligence theory, the Defendant failed to warn of associated hazards. This Court exercises jurisdiction pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 8-2-14.

         I

         Facts and Travel

         The Decedent, Rudolph Allen (Mr. Allen or the Decedent), and his wife, Dorothy Allen, filed this instant action on April 27, 2015 after the Decedent was diagnosed with mesothelioma on March 11, 2015. The Plaintiffs allege that Mr. Allen worked as a plumbing-heating tradesman from 1949 to 1959 and subsequently worked as a plumber-pipefitter from 1960 to the late 1970s. Plaintiffs allege that Mr. Allen, while at work, inhaled, absorbed, and came into contact with asbestos and asbestos-containing products.

         Mr. Allen was born in Maine, where he lived the majority of his life, with the exception of the two and one-half years that he served in the Navy beginning in 1943 and the nine years that he lived on Long Island, New York. Following his time in the Navy, Mr. Allen worked in New York and Maine on various jobs which included plumbing, boiler and heating equipment installation, and finally as a union pipefitter from 1963 through retirement. Mr. Allen's exposure allegations in the present motion involve his employment at Dave Collins, Robert Ford, Agingo, and his career as a union pipefitter working at twelve different paper mills, the majority of which were located in Maine. In his deposition testimony, Mr. Allen testified to repacking Crane valves at various paper mills in Maine. However, Mr. Allen could not testify as to which company manufactured the interior packing that he removed from the Crane valves, nor could he testify as to which company manufactured the replacement packing that he subsequently installed in the Crane valves.

         Mr. Allen died in Auburn, Maine on October 10, 2015. Subsequently, Mr. Richard R. Ouellette (Mr. Ouellette), a co-worker of the Decedent, was deposed on July 6, 2016. Mr. Ouellette worked with Mr. Allen for eight months beginning in November of 1977 through June of 1978 at International Paper in Jay, Maine. During part of this time, Mr. Ouellette was employed as a pipefitter, and the Decedent was a foreman. Mr. Ouellette testified that he worked with Mr. Allen to install new pipes in a power plant and that he also installed new valves, some of which were manufactured by the Defendant, during the course of the construction project. However, Mr. Ouellette testified that Crane did not supply the gaskets that were used in the new Crane valves; rather, Garlock manufactured the gaskets used in the Crane valves that Mr. Ouellette and Mr. Allen installed. Finally, Mr. Ouellette stated that at a pulp digester job, which lasted a few months, he witnessed Mr. Allen personally remove gaskets or packing from what he believed was a Crane valve. However, he did not know which company manufactured the packing that he removed from the Crane valve, i.e. whether it was an original Crane product or had subsequently been replaced with another company's product.

         II

         Parties' Arguments

         The Defendant contends that it is entitled to summary judgment under Maine law because there is no evidence of exposure to an asbestos-containing product or component manufactured, sold, or supplied by Crane. Crane states that under Maine law, a manufacturer cannot be held liable for injuries caused by defective products that were manufactured, sold, or supplied by third parties. Crane maintains that liability cannot stem from anything other than an original asbestos-containing Crane product, and that it is not liable for products produced by other companies that might have been used in conjunction with a Crane product when Crane did not recommend doing so. The Defendant points to an alleged lack of evidence provided by the Plaintiffs to demonstrate that neither the Defendant nor the witness, Mr. Ouellette, could testify to Mr. Allen's exposure to an asbestos-containing Crane product.

         In addition, the Defendant contends that-even if Maine law allowed liability for third-party component products-the Plaintiffs have failed to provide prima facie evidence that any products manufactured or supplied by Crane even contained asbestos. Finally, the Defendant claims that the Plaintiffs are not entitled to recovery on their remaining two claims-loss of consortium and conspiracy-since both claims are derivative of the personal injury claims, which Defendant contends fail under Maine law.

         The Plaintiffs contend that there are genuine issues of material fact that should be resolved by a jury. Plaintiffs argue that Crane is liable to the Plaintiffs under a strict liability theory because the use of asbestos products in relation to Crane's valves was foreseeable to the Defendant and, under a negligence theory, the Defendant failed to warn of the hazards of asbestos. The Plaintiffs contend that there is ample evidence of the Decedent's exposure to Crane products; namely, the Plaintiffs point to Mr. Ouellette's deposition testimony that he saw the Decedent working on a Crane valve. However, they do acknowledge that Mr. Ouellette did not know who produced the gaskets and packing that was removed from the Crane valve or the maker of the gaskets or packing that was subsequently installed in the Crane valve.

         Additionally, the Plaintiffs contend that Maine courts employ a "substantial factor" analysis to determine issues of causation in tort actions. The Plaintiffs maintain that their claims should survive summary judgment because they have presented sufficient evidence to establish that the Defendant's products were a substantial factor in the Decedent's injuries. The Plaintiffs maintain that the Defendant's argument-namely, that defendants in Maine are immune from third-party product liability-does not consider the Supreme Judicial Court of Maine's ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.