NEW ORLEANS – A Louisiana appeals court ruled that an asbestos claimant provided sufficient evidence that his five-day asbestos exposure could have been a substantial contributing factor to his asbestosis.
Judge Terri F. Love delivered the Dec. 10 opinion in Louisiana’s Fourth District Court of Appeals, reversing the trial court’s judgment. Judges Edwin A. Lombard and Roland L. Belsome concurred.
“On appellate review, we find that because there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether [the claimant’s] exposure to asbestos at Goodrich was a substantial contributing factor to [his] development of asbestosis the trial court committed reversible error,” Love wrote.
Plaintiffs Edward and Anna Alberes allege that Edward contracted asbestosis as a result of occupational asbestos exposures while employed in various positions from 1953 through 2006.
In the late 1970s or early 1980s, Alberes claims he worked turnaround job for five days as a pipefitter helper at Goodrich’s Louisiana facility where he was responsible for installing and removing asbestos-containing gaskets allegedly manufactured by Garlock Sealing Technologies.
Alberes now seeks to recover damages as a result of his asbestosis, claiming this five-day asbestos exposure was a substantial contributing factor.
Alberes also claims that while working at Goodrich, he worked in close proximity to insulators who were busy removing and installing asbestos-containing insulation. He was also responsible for cleaning up the insulation at the end of each work day.
Industrial hygienist Franke Parker III testified on behalf of the plaintiffs that Alberes’ work with asbestos-containing gaskets would have exposed him to concentrations of asbestos above “contemporary occupational limits,” which would have been a significant contributing factor in his development of asbestosis.
Dr. Judd Shellito also testified on behalf of the plaintiffs, arguing the any exposure theory.
Furthermore, Dr. Robert Jones, Goodrich’s expert, testified that all exposures are cumulative and contribute to the resulting disease.
Goodrich sought summary judgment in the Civil District Court of New Orleans, asserting that the plaintiffs failed to provide evidence of frequent and regular exposure to asbestos fibers at Goodrich and that the exposure would have been a substantial factor in the development of his asbestosis.
“Goodrich points to the fact that Mr. Alberes’ exposure at its Plaquemine facility was only for five days on a turnaround job and inconsequential in the scope of a life-long career employed as a laborer, pipefitter helper and crane operator,” the opinion states.
The trial court agreed and granted Goodrich’s motion for summary judgment.
On appeal, the plaintiffs claim the trial court erred when it granted Goodrich’s motion for summary judgment.
Goodrich argues that “the law allows for defendants with relatively minimal exposures in these cases to be dismissed,” meaning the court did not err in its prior ruling.
The appeals court, however, notes that Goodrich failed to point to any case law supporting its contention.
Love stated that the trial court only granted summary judgment because the plaintiff’s exposure while working for Goodrich was minimal when compared to other longer exposures.
“Given that the substantial contributing factor test in asbestos-related cases focuses on the quality of exposure versus the duration of exposure, granting summary judgment on these grounds was in error,” he wrote.
Therefore, the appeals court held that the plaintiffs provided sufficient evidence from the claimant’s testimony and the experts’ opinions to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Alberes’ asbestos exposure at the Goodrich facility was a substantial contributing factor to his contraction of asbestosis.
As a result, the appeals court reverse the trial court’s ruling and remand the case for further proceedings.