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In re Rhode Island Asbestos Litigation

Superior Court of Rhode Island, Providence

February 25, 2019

IN RE: RHODE ISLAND ASBESTOS LITIGATION
v.
3M COMPANY, et al., Defendants. DEBRA JOHNSON as Executrix of the Estate of RAYMOND JOHNSON, JR. and as Surviving Spouse (Probate Pending), Plaintiff,

          For Plaintiff: E. Deaton, Esq.

          For Defendant: Scott C. Baer, Esq.

          DECISION

          GIBNEY, P.J.

         Defendant CPI Controls, Inc. (CPI or Defendant) moves for summary judgment contending that Plaintiff Debra Johnson (Plaintiff) has failed to produce any evidence supporting her complaint against CPI. Plaintiff objects to the within motion. This Court exercises jurisdiction pursuant to Super. R. Civ. P. 56.

         I

         Facts and Travel

         On June 23, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging that her husband, Raymond Johnson, Jr. (Johnson), died as a result of exposure to asbestos or asbestos-containing products sold, manufactured, or distributed by the defendants. Johnson was a career electrician from 1967 to 2007 and worked at various job sites including Hoechst Chemical Incorporation (Hoechst), where he worked from 1991 to 2007. Plaintiff alleges that Hoechst purchased asbestos- containing products from CPI, and that Johnson was exposed to these products during his employment at Hoechst.

         On July 19, 2018, CPI moved for summary judgment arguing Plaintiff has failed to produce evidence that Johnson was exposed to any asbestos-containing product manufactured, sold, or distributed by CPI. In response, Plaintiff argues that genuine issues of fact exist regarding Johnson's exposure precluding summary judgment.

         II

         Standard of Review

         It is well-settled that "[s]ummary judgment is 'a drastic remedy,' and a motion for summary judgment should be dealt with cautiously." Estate of Giuliano v. Giuliano, 949 A.2d 386, 390 (R.I. 2008) (citing Ardente v. Horan, 117 R.I. 254, 256-57, 366 A.2d 162, 164 (1976)). "Summary judgment is appropriate when, viewing the facts and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the court determines that there are no issues of material fact in dispute, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Quest Diagnostics, LLC v. Pinnacle Consortium of Higher Educ., 93 A.3d 949, 951 (R.I. 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted) (alterations in original).

         '"The moving party bears the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of fact."' McGovern v. Bank of Am., N.A., 91 A.3d 853, 858 (R.I. 2014) (quoting 1 Robert B. Kent et al., Rhode Island Civil and Appellate Procedure § 56:5 at 520 (2018-19 ed.)). Once this burden is met, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to prove by competent evidence the existence of a genuine issue of fact. Id. The nonmoving party may not rely on '"mere allegations or denials in the pleadings, mere conclusions or mere legal opinions'" to satisfy its burden. D'Allesandro v. Tarro, 842 A.2d 1063, 1065 (R.I. 2004) (quoting Santucci v. Citizens Bank of R.I., 799 A.2d 254, 257 (R.I. 2002) (per curiam)). '"Rather, the nonmoving party must affirmatively assert facts that raise a genuine issue to be resolved."' Avco Corp. v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 679 A.2d 323, 327 (R.I. 1996) (quoting Hydro-Mfg., Inc. v. Kayser-Roth Corp., 640 A.2d 950, 954 (R.I. 1994)).

         III

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