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Grande v. Borg-Warner Morse Tec, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. California

August 18, 2014

LISA GRANDE, individually and as successor-in-interest to THE ESTATE OF GERALD BRANTLEY, Deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
BORG-WARNER MORSE TEC, INC., et al., Defendants.

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT CRANE CO.'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [Dkt. No. 195.]

GONZALO P. CURIEL, District Judge.

Before the Court is a motion for summary judgment filed by Crane Co., the sole remaining Defendant in the above-captioned matter. (Dkt. No. 195.) The parties have fully briefed the motion, and the Court held a hearing on the motion on Friday, March 7, 2014. Ethan Horn, Esq. appeared on behalf of Plaintiff and Geoffrey Davis, Esq. appeared on behalf of Defendant Crane Co. Based on a review of the briefs, supporting documentation, oral arguments of counsel, and the applicable law, the Court DENIES Defendant Crane Co.'s motion for summary judgment and GRANTS Defendant Crane Co.'s request to sever the issue of punitive damages for trial.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On January 30, 2012, Gerald Brantley ("Decedent") filed an action for negligence, strict liability, false representation, and intentional failure to warn in San Diego County Superior Court against twenty-nine Defendants. (Dkt. No. 1-1.) Defendant CBS Corporation removed the action to federal court on March 2, 2012. (Dkt. No. 1.) On October 11, 2012, the case was transferred to the undersigned judge. (Dkt. No. 85.)

On February 8, 2013, Gerald Brantley passed away. On April 30, 2013, Plaintiff Lisa Grande ("Plaintiff") filed a first amended complaint for wrongful death. (Dkt. No. 139.) Plaintiff alleges seven causes of action, for: (1) negligence; (2) strict liability; (3) false representation; (4) intentional tort/intentional failure to warn; (5) premises/contractor liability; (6) general negligence; and (7) vicarious liability. (Id.)

Plaintiff has since dismissed a number of Defendants from the above-captioned matter. Only Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Crane Co. remain.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

There is no dispute among the Parties regarding the following facts. Decedent Gerald Brantley passed away on February 8, 2013. At the time of his death, Decedent suffered from malignant mesothelioma, a form of cancer linked to exposure to asbestos. Plaintiff Lisa Grande, Decedent's daughter and the successor in interest to the Estate of Gerald Brantley, alleges Decedent was exposed to asbestos from Crane Co.'s products, resulting in the diagnosis of his asbestos-related disease and his eventual death. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges Decedent was exposed to Crane Co.'s products during his career as a Navy machinist.

Decedent served aboard the USS Fort Marion in the United States Navy from approximately 1958 to 1960.[1] The USS Fort Marion was commissioned in January 1946. (Dkt. No. 207-17 at ¶ 20.) As a boilerman, Decedent tended to boilers, pumps, and valves located in two boiler rooms aboard the vessel. (Dkt. No. 207-18 ¶ 2.) Decedent performed work on globe valves, gate valves, ball valves, micrometer valves, and steam valves while aboard the USS Fort Marion. (Id. ¶ 3.) Plaintiff's claims as to Decedent's exposure to Defendant Crane Co.'s asbestos-containing products is limited to Decedent's service in the Navy while aboard the USS Fort Marion. (Dkt. No. 207-17 ¶¶ 6, 19.)

In particular, Plaintiff claims that Decedent's work aboard the USS Fort Marion exposed Decedent to asbestos from Defendant Crane Co.'s valves as well as to the internal gasket and packing material associated with the Crane Co. valves.[2] (Dkt. No. 207-17 ¶ 12) (citing Dkt. No. 195-10, Farkas Decl. Ex. 6, Pl. Resp. to Interrog. No. 1 at 6.) Plaintiff focuses her asbestos exposure claims against Crane Co. to Decedent's exposure to Crane Co. valves used in steam applications, because steam valves "had to be able to withstand the heat associated with these products" and therefore, at the time, necessarily contained asbestos. (Id.)

A valve is a device which is used to control the flow of liquids and gasses. (Dkt. No. 207-6, Stewart Decl. Ex. G at 85.) As early as 1858 until the mid-1980s, Crane Co. manufactured and sold industrial valves that contained internal material composed or partially-composed of asbestos. (Id. at 86.) Although the industrial valves manufactured by Crane Co. were themselves made of "steel, bronze, and other metals, " the valves had enclosed within their metal structure "asbestos-containing gaskets, packing, or discs." (Dkt. No. 207-6, Stewart Decl. Ex. F at 70.) At issue in this case are the asbestos-containing "gaskets" encased within Crane Co. valves which served to prevent metal-to-metal contact and prevent leakage, (Dkt. No. 207-6, Stewart Decl. Ex. I at 108), and asbestos-containing "packing, " often in rope-like form, wrapped around the internal valve stems and also encased within Crane Co. valves. (Dkt. No. 195-1 at 12.)

As to Decedent's work with steam valves, Decedent testified that each time he disassembled a valve to access the internal bonnet gasket and packing, his work released dust in the air, which Decedent inhaled. (Dkt. No. 207-18 ¶ 4.) It is undisputed that Decedent never himself installed a new Crane Co. valve aboard the USS Fort Marion. (Dkt. No. 207-17 ¶ 33.) However, Plaintiff claims Decedent was exposed to Crane Co.'s asbestos-containing internal gasket and packing material when performing replacement and maintenance work on new Crane Co. valves installed by others aboard the USS Fort Marion. (Dkt. No. 207 at 3.) Decedent testified that he knew the Crane Co. valves he worked on were new for two reasons: (1) because opening the valve to access the internal parts would inevitably leave marks on the valves, nuts, and bolts; and (2) replaced packing glands and gaskets would be clean rather than dry and caked on. (Dkt. No. 207-1, Stewart Decl. Ex. A at 1274:13-1276:10.)

The Parties do not dispute that Crane Co. sold products that contained asbestos prior to 1985. Crane Co. admits that it manufactured and sold valves that contained asbestos components as early as 1858. (Dkt. No. 207-18 ¶ 25) (citing Dkt. No. 201-1, Lannus Decl. Ex. 41). Crane Co. manufactured valves with internal asbestos-containing gaskets and packing material until the late 1980s. (Id.) (citing Dkt. No. 201-1, Lannus Decl. Ex. 45.) Plaintiff has introduced evidence that Crane Co. did not affix ...


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