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Dandridge v. Crane Co.

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

January 27, 2016

LINDA T. DANDRIDGE, individually and as personal representative of the estate of THOMAS C. DANDRIDGE, JR., deceased, Plaintiffs,
v.
CRANE CO., et al., Defendants.

ORDER

DAVID C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

This matter is before the court on defendant Crane Co.’s (“Crane”)[1] motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the court grants Crane’s motion.

I. BACKGROUND

From 1965 to 1976, Thomas C. Dandridge, Jr. (“Dandridge”) was employed as a pipefitter and coppersmith at the Charleston Naval Shipyard (the “shipyard”) in Charleston, South Carolina. Over the course of his employment, Dandridge was exposed to asbestos while working with and around various asbestos-containing products, including products used in valves manufactured and sold by Crane. Specifically, plaintiff Linda T. Dandridge (“plaintiff”) alleges that Dandridge was exposed to asbestos contained in flange gaskets used to link Crane valves to pipe lines. Def.’s Mot. Ex. C, Dandridge Video Dep. 144:13-16.

On January 24, 2012, Dandridge and plaintiff filed this action in the Court of Common Pleas in Charleston County, bringing claims against a number of defendants including Crane Co. The action was removed to this court on February 21, 2012. On January 13, 2013, following Dandridge’s death, plaintiff amended the complaint to bring claims against the defendants in both her individual capacity and as the personal representative of Dandridge’s estate.

Plaintiff brings claims against Crane for negligence, negligent failure to warn, breach of the implied warranty of merchantability, strict liability, fraud, fraudulent misrepresentation, breach of post-sale duty to warn, wrongful death, and loss of consortium. Crane moved for summary judgment as to all claims on November 16, 2015. Plaintiff responded to Crane’s motion on November 19, 2015, and Crane replied on December 3, 2015. This motion is now ripe for the court’s review.

II. STANDARD

Summary judgment shall be granted “if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). “By its very terms, this standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). “Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Id. at 248. “[S]ummary judgment will not lie if the dispute about a material fact is ‘genuine, ’ that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.

“[A]t the summary judgment stage the judge’s function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 249. When the party moving for summary judgment does not bear the ultimate burden of persuasion at trial, it may discharge its burden by demonstrating to the court that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party’s case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). The non-movant must then “make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party’s case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Id. at 322. The court should view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all inferences in its favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

III. DISCUSSION

At the outset, the parties agree that this case falls within the court’s admiralty jurisdiction; therefore, maritime law applies. Def.’s Mot. 4-5; Pl.’s Resp. 1 n.1.

Under maritime law, a manufacturer is liable for “harm caused by a product sold ‘in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous.’” Conner v. Alfa Laval, Inc., 842 F.Supp.2d 791, 796 (E.D. Pa. 2012) (quoting Restatement (Second) of Torts § 402A (1965)). “Liability for defective products has grown into three distinct theories of liability: manufacturing defects, design defects, and defects based on inadequate warnings.” Id. (citing Restatement (Third) of Torts: Prods. Liab. § 2 (1998)). “A manufacturer is also liable for the harm resulting from the negligent failure to warn of the risks created by its products.” Id.

Under any theory of product liability, plaintiff must establish causation with respect to each defendant manufacturer. Id. (“[W]hether in strict liability or negligence, a plaintiff must establish causation with respect to each defendant manufacturer.”); Stark v. Armstrong World Indus., Inc., 21 F. App’x 371, 375 (6th Cir. 2001) (“[I]n order to maintain an action for either negligence or strict liability under maritime law, a plaintiff must show causation of his injury by either the defendant’s negligence or the product defect.”). To establish causation under maritime law, a plaintiff must show: “(1) that the plaintiff was exposed to the defendant’s product and (2) that the product was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s injury.” Conner, 842 F.Supp.2d at 797. “A manufacturer is not liable for asbestos-containing components and replacement parts it did not manufacture or distribute.” Id. (citing Lindstrom v. A-C Prod. Liab. Trust, 424 F.3d 488, 492 (6th Cir. 2005)). This principle is often referred to as the “bare metal” defense. Various Plaintiffs v. Various Defendants, 856 F.Supp.2d 703, 709 (E.D. Pa. 2012).

Plaintiff does not contend that Crane manufactured the flange gaskets Dandridge encountered while working at the shipyard.[2]See Pl.’s Resp. 8 (arguing that Crane had “a duty to warn Mr. Dandridge about asbestos exposure resulting from flange gaskets used with its valves”); see also Def.’s Mot. Ex. D (Crane flange gaskets not included on list of asbestos-containing products Dandridge alleges he encountered). This alone would appear to warrant summary judgment under the bare metal defense, as applied in Lindstrom and Conner. See Lindstrom v. A-C Prod. Liab. Trust, 424 F.3d at 496 (finding that “[defendant] cannot be held responsible for the asbestos contained in another product” where evidence showed plaintiff was exposed to asbestos from another company’s products which were attached to defendant’s product); Conner, 842 F.Supp.2d at 803 (granting summary judgment ...


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