In this federal court case, the plaintiff alleged exposure to asbestos while serving in the Navy from 1957 to 1960 aboard the USS Jonas Ingram and the USS Clarence Bronson, as well as from “other sites of asbestos exposure from approximately 1956 to 1970.” In November 2013, eight defendants moved for summary judgment, and the plaintiff only opposed the motions by Ford Motor Company and Honeywell International, Inc. Following the granting of summary judgment to all of the defendants with unopposed motions, the plaintiff moved to amend the complaint to only reflect the existing claims against Ford and Honeywell that survived summary judgment.
The court denied the motion as untimely, since the unopposed motions were granted in January 2014. The court also denied the motions as unduly prejudicial against the defendants “because defendants are entitled to rely upon the claims and allegations in the complaint as a basis for preparing for and presenting their defense at trial” and “because defendants may rely upon factual allegations in the complaint as judicial admissions.” (Citations omitted.) As the court held: “Actual assertions in pleadings and pretrial orders, unless amended, are considered judicial admissions conclusively binding on the party who made them. It is well established that even if the post-pleading evidence conflicts with the evidence in the pleadings, admissions in the pleadings are binding on the parties.” (Citations omitted.)
As the court concluded: “Evidence cited by plaintiffs, including bankruptcy claim forms, deposition testimony, and other statements in the record, is insufficient to establish that factual admissions in the complaint are ‘clearly untrue’ or that plaintiffs made an ‘honest mistake’ in asserting allegations as to exposure to asbestos in the Navy. In addition, plaintiffs’ lack of opposition to summary judgment in favor of FMC, Foster Wheeler, IMO, and GE, is insufficient to meet this standard. As an initial matter, a lack of opposition to summary judgment may be attributed to any number of reasons, including strategic ones, unrelated to availability of evidence to support a claim against a particular defendant. In any event, the court’s reasons for granting the unopposed motions for summary judgment related to the failure to present evidence pertaining to each defendants’ products, rather than exposure to asbestos in the Navy overall.”
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