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In re Asbestos Litigation Loretta Belac

Superior Court of Rhode Island

October 19, 2017

In Re: Asbestos Litigation LORETTA BELAC, Plaintiff,
v.
3M COMPANY, ET AL., Defendants.

          For Plaintiff: John E. Deaton, Esq.

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

          DECISION

          TAFT-CARTER, J.

         Before the Court for decision are the Defendants'-Evenheat Kiln, Inc. (Evenheat) and Sargent Art, Inc. (Sargent Art)-Motions for Summary Judgment. Evenheat further requests entry of a separate judgment on its motion to strike Plaintiff's affidavit pursuant to the "sham affidavit" doctrine. The Defendants contend that summary judgment should be granted because the Plaintiff, Loretta Belac (Plaintiff), has not produced sufficient evidence of product identification or a causal connection. The Plaintiff objects to the motions, arguing that there are genuine issues of material fact for trial and that appropriate product identification and causal connection between the Plaintiff's injuries and the Defendants' products has been shown. This Court heard oral arguments in this matter on September 6, 2017 and now exercises jurisdiction pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 8-2-14 and Super. R. Civ. P. 56.

         I

         Facts and Travel

         The Plaintiff originally filed this personal injury action on February 9, 2016, asserting claims for failure to warn, negligence, strict product liability, breach of warranty, and conspiracy.[1] The Plaintiff named several defendants, including Evenheat and Sargent Art. In her Complaint, the Plaintiff alleges that over the course of her career crafting ceramics from her home business, she was exposed to asbestos-containing products manufactured by the Defendants. She contends that this exposure ultimately caused her to develop mesothelioma.

         During discovery, Plaintiff was deposed over the course of six days from June to September of 2016. Both Evenheat and Sargent Art attended the deposition. Plaintiff died last year due to complications from her illness. At the time of this Decision, Plaintiff's counsel has not moved for the appropriate substitution of parties pursuant to Super. R. Civ. P. 25.

         A

         Defendant Evenheat

         Evenheat, a kiln manufacturing company, unlike other defendants in this matter, never contested jurisdiction in Rhode Island.[2] Rather, after responding to Plaintiff's discovery requests, Evenheat brought a Motion for Summary Judgment on December 22, 2016, alleging a lack of product identification and insufficient causal connection. The Plaintiff later filed an objection to Evenheat's Motion for Summary Judgment on May 22, 2017. Evenheat responded to Plaintiff's objection on August 31, 2017 and filed an accompanying motion to strike Plaintiff's daughter's affidavit-completed on May 10, 2017 by Faith Belac Cope (Belac Cope)-under the "sham affidavit" doctrine. Oral arguments on the summary judgment motion were scheduled and heard on September 6, 2017.

         B

         Defendant Sargent Art

         Sargent Art, a craft product company, also did not contest jurisdiction in Rhode Island and filed a Motion for Summary Judgment in this matter on January 10, 2017. Sargent Art contends that the record is absent evidence showing Plaintiff worked with its products. Therefore, it asserts that the Plaintiff has not met her burden regarding adequate product identification and causal connection evidence. Sargent Art filed an objection to Plaintiff's voluntary motion for dismissal on March 30, 2017. Following the denial of her motion, the Plaintiff filed an objection to Sargent Art's Motion for Summary Judgment on ...


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