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Circumstantial Evidence Found Sufficient to Overcome Summary Judgment Motion by Pump Manufacturer, but Case Dismissed Against Honeywell for Lack of Jurisdiction

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, July 1, 2015

In this case, the plaintiff, Gerald Mcalvey, claims he was exposed to asbestos while serving in the Navy aboard the USS Bremerton and USS Roosevelt from 1954 to 1958. One defendant, Honeywell International Inc., moved to dismiss based on lack of jurisdiction. Another defendant, Owens-Illinois Inc., moved for summary judgment, arguing the plaintiff failed to offer evidence that the defendant manufactured or distributed asbestos-containing components attached to or within pumps used at the plaintiff’s work sites. Owens further argued that the plaintiff had not provided evidence to meet the “frequency, regularity, and proximity test.”

The court granted Honeywell’s motion to dismiss, stating: “Plaintiff does not contend that Honeywell is incorporated or maintains its principal place of business in Illinois. Further, Plaintiff has alleged insufficient facts to establish that Honeywell’s affiliation with Illinois is ‘so continuous and systematic as to render’ Honeywell at home in Illinois. Honeywell undoubtedly has contacts in Illinois. However, the Supreme Court has made it clear that the mere presence of a defendant in the forum does not subject it to all-purpose jurisdiction in that forum. See Daimler AG, 134 S. Ct. at 752, 762 (finding no general jurisdiction over a foreign corporation where subsidiary, whose actions were assumed attributable to the corporation, had multiple facilities and a regional office in the forum state).”

The court denied Owens’ motion for summary judgment, holding: “In this case, there is sufficient circumstantial evidence of such exposure to avoid summary judgment. Other witnesses present on the ships at or around the same time Plaintiff was on the ships have testified that Owens-Illinois insulation contained asbestos and was used in work on machinery and equipment, specifically that on the Roosevelt. Plaintiff worked with such insulation aboard both the Bremerton and the Roosevelt. The process produced dust, and Plaintiff breathed in the dust. Not only did Plaintiff work with the packing directly, he was also around others working with the insulation. Additionally, Plaintiff’s experts provide opinions supporting the assertion that exposure to asbestos dust was a substantial factor in the development of Plaintiff’s injury. Based on this evidence, a fair-minded jury could indeed return a verdict in favor of the Plaintiff. Plaintiff’s claim does not fail simply because there is no direct evidence specifically identifying the maker of the replacement parts that Plaintiff worked with over forty years ago. See Quirin v. Lorillard Tobacco Co., 2014 WL 585090 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 14, 2014).”

Read the full Honeywell decision here.

Read the full Owens decision here.

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