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Belac v. 3M Co.

Superior Court of Rhode Island

April 20, 2017

LORETTA BELAC Plaintiff,
v.
3M COMPANY, et al. Defendants.

         Providence County Superior Court

          For Plaintiff: John E. Deaton, Esq.

          For Defendant: Andrew R. McConville, Esq. Marc E. Finkel, Esq. Lisa M. Kresge, Esq. Kevin McAllister, Esq.

          DECISION

          GIBNEY, P.J.

         The Plaintiff, Loretta Belac (Plaintiff), has moved for the voluntary dismissal of her Complaint brought in the above-named personal injury action relating to the Plaintiff's alleged exposure to asbestos-containing products. Following numerous defendants' motions to dismiss based on a lack of personal jurisdiction in Rhode Island, the Plaintiff has brought her motion for voluntary dismissal in order to refile the case in the State of Pennsylvania. Defendants Evenheat Kiln, Inc. (Evenheat) and Sargent Art, Inc. (Sargent Art) (collectively, Defendants) object to the Plaintiff's motion to dismiss without prejudice and request that the Court deny said Motion in order to first hear summary judgment motions brought by both Defendants. In the alternative, the two Defendants request that this Court grant the Plaintiff's motion to dismiss with prejudice with respect to Evenheat and Sargent Art. This Court exercises jurisdiction pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 8-2-14.

         I Facts and Travel

         A Defendant Evenheat

         The Plaintiff originally filed this matter on February 9, 2016, and Evenheat served its answer to Plaintiff's Complaint on March 11, 2016. Thereafter, the Plaintiff filed two Amended Complaints on July 28, 2016 and September 8, 2016, and Evenheat filed its respective answers on August 16, 2016 and September 13, 2016. The Plaintiff served Evenheat and other defendants with master discovery on or about April 21, 2016, and Evenheat responded to the discovery requests on June 7, 2016. During the discovery phase, the Plaintiff was deposed over the course of six days from June to September of 2016, which Evenheat attended. Evenheat also participated via telephone conference in one day of trial preservation testimony on September 2, 2016.

         Evenheat, unlike other defendants in the matter, never contested jurisdiction in Rhode Island and did not file a motion for lack of personal jurisdiction. Rather-after the above-mentioned discovery was conducted-Evenheat brought a motion for summary judgment on December 22, 2016 alleging a lack of product identification and insufficient causal connection. Evenheat contends that it never manufactured, sold, or distributed asbestos-containing products, nor did the Plaintiff come into contact with any such product of Evenheat's. The motion was set for a hearing on January 4, 2017. Summary judgment arguments were later set for March 29, 2017; however, as of the date of this Decision, summary judgment arguments have not yet taken place. Additionally, the Plaintiff has not yet responded in writing to Evenheat's motion for summary judgment. Instead, on April 12, 2017, the Plaintiff brought a voluntary motion for dismissal against all defendants, including Evenheat, in order to refile the case in Pennsylvania.

         B Defendant Sargent Art

         Since the Plaintiff filed her action in February of 2016, Sargent Art has responded to three Complaints filed by the Plaintiff. Sargent Art has also attended seven days of depositions of the Plaintiff and one day of trial preservation testimony. It has responded to Plaintiff's master discovery requests and, following discovery, Sargent Art filed its motion for summary judgment on January 10, 2017. In its motion for summary judgment, Sargent Art argues a lack of product identification and insufficient causal connection, contending that Sargent Art never manufactured, sold, or distributed an asbestos-containing product and that the Plaintiff did not come into contact with any such product. The Plaintiff has not yet responded with a written objection to that motion.

         Following the Plaintiff's motion for voluntary dismissal against all defendants, Sargent Art submitted its objection to the Court on March 30, 2017, asking that the motion to dismiss either be denied and the matter be set down for summary judgment arguments, or, in the alternative, that the motion to dismiss be granted with prejudice.

         II Parties' Arguments

         Both Evenheat and Sargent Art contend that under Rhode Island Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(2) (Rule 41(a)(2)), a court may grant a plaintiff's motion to dismiss upon such terms and conditions as the court deems proper. See Super. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(2). Unless otherwise specified, such a dismissal would be granted without prejudice. See id. The Defendants argue that such motion to dismiss should not be granted when such a dismissal will prejudice a party. The Defendants contend that Rhode Island's rule is identical to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(2), and they note that federal courts will not grant a dismissal when it prejudices a party based on the following factors: 1) the defendant's effort and expense of preparation for trial; ...


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