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Plaintiff Allowed Limited Discovery as to Corporations’ Relationship in Denying Automaker’s Motion to Dismiss

Supreme Court of New York, Suffolk County, July 6, 2015

In this case, the plaintiff was allegedly exposed to asbestos from brake and clutch repairs on various motor vehicles, including Fiat automobiles, while working at a gas station and as a mechanic at an automobile service station in the late 1970s. The defendant, Fiat USA Inc. (Fiat USA), moved to dismiss, arguing that it is not a proper party. As the court wrote in its opinion, Fiat USA claimed that it “did not design, manufacture, sell or distribute automobiles in the United States during the relevant time period. The defendant further asserts that it did not assume or acquire the liabilities of any Fiat entity that sold or distributed cars in the United States during the relevant period.” The plaintiff opposed the motion and cross-moved for discovery, arguing that “it is clear that each of the entities, Fiat USA Inc., Fiat Auto USA (FAUSA), and Fiat Motors of North America are related, but what is not clear is to what extent.”

In its decision, the court discussed the ways liability may attach to a corporation that acquires the assets of another and denied Fiat USA’s motion, holding: “Fiat USA’s motion for summary judgment is denied with leave to renew after the completion of discovery limited to the relationship between defendant and FAUSA, for the period of time from March 14, 1984 through 90 days after the dissolution of FAUSA. Plaintiffs’ cross-motion is granted despite untimeliness given that no prejudice resulted from plaintiffs’ brief delay in submission. Defendant had the opportunity, and did, submit opposition to the cross-motion.”

Read the full decision here.

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