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Willful and Wanton Claim Dismissed in Asbestos Case


Willful and Wanton Claim Dismissed in Asbestos Case

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Western Division, July 27, 2015

In this case, the plaintiff worked as an auto mechanic and performed brake work in the 1960s and 1970s.  Defendant Genuine Auto Parts moved for summary judgment, seeking to dismiss the plaintiff’s claim for willful and wanton conduct. The plaintiff opposed the motion, essentially pointing to the general state of knowledge as to the hazards of asbestos, but failed to offer any evidence that Genuine Auto Parts consciously made a decision to sell asbestos-containing products with knowledge of the decision. The dismissal of the claim is important because it also eliminates the potential for punitive damages. The court rejected the plaintiff’s argument and offered proof, concluding that it was insufficient to establish willful and wonton conduct: “While the evidence offered may tend to show that defendant Genuine Parts was negligent, it is not sufficient to show that this defendant’s conduct was willful and wanton. It does not allow the jury to reasonably find that defendant Genuine Parts affirmatively ‘knew the probable consequences’ of its actions, or acted with ‘conscious disregard of the safety of others.’ Yancey, 354 N.C. at 53; Akzona, 314 N.C. at 496. Accordingly, summary judgment is granted on plaintiffs’ claim for willful and wanton conduct (Third Cause).”

Read the full decision here.

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