Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Hilt v. Foster Wheeler LLC

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 2, 2018

GERALDINE HILT, as Wrongful Death Heir, and as Successor-in-Interest to ROBERT HILT, Deceased, and KRISHNA TINDALL, SHERLYN HILT, KIMBERLY CRAWFORD, DARPHINE ROLAND, as Legal Heirs of ROBERT HILT, Deceased, Plaintiffs,
v.
FOSTER WHEELER LLC FKA FOSTER WHEELER CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING FOSTER WHEELER'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          CHARLES R. BREYER United States District Judge

         Plaintiffs brought this case to recover damages for harm allegedly caused by Defendants' asbestos-containing products. In 2014, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant Foster Wheeler LLC (“Foster Wheeler”). Order Granting Summary Judgment (dkt. 48, Ex. A) at 7. All other defendants were subsequently dismissed through settlements or voluntary dismissals. Final Judgment (dkt. 26). Plaintiffs appealed the order granting summary judgment. Notice of Appeal (dkt. 27). On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reversed the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and remanded the case to this Court “to consider any remaining grounds in Foster Wheeler's motion for summary judgment.” Hilt v. Foster Wheeler, LLC, 690 Fed.Appx. 482, 483 (9th Cir. Apr. 26, 2017). Having done so, the Court DENIES Foster Wheeler's motion for summary judgment, for the reasons discussed below.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Between 1965 and 1972, Decedent Robert Hilt (“Hilt” or “Decedent”) worked as a laborer and machinist at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco. See Plts.' Special Interrogatory Responses (dkt. 48, Ex. B, attached therein as Ex. B), No. 1. During that time, Hilt worked aboard a number of different ships, including the USS Bradley and the USS Constellation. See id. According to Hilt, he worked “down in the boiler room” on both ships for at least several months, within two to three feet of the boilermakers, who were removing asbestos-containing firebrick and refractory materials from the boilers. Hilt Depo. Vol. I (dkt. 48, Ex. C, attached therein as Ex. A) at 42:2-44:2, 47:11-49:20. The removal of these materials created “lots of dust” that “floated around quite a bit.” Id. at 43:1-8. The record indicates that the boilers installed on the USS Bradley and the USS Constellation, near which Hilt worked, were Foster Wheeler boilers. See Plts.' Special Interrogatory Responses, Nos. 1 and 3. The insulation and refractory materials utilized in Foster Wheeler boilers contained asbestos. See Sworn Statement of Arthur Christenson (Foster Wheeler's Person Most Knowledgeable) (dkt. 48, Ex. C, attached therein as Ex. I) at 143. In 2008, Hilt was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma; he passed away two years later as a result of the disease. See Raybin Decl. (dkt. 48, Ex. C, attached therein as Ex. K), Ex. 2.

         B. Procedural Background

         Plaintiffs commenced this action in 2011, bringing tort claims to recover damages against various defendants. See FAC (dkt. 48, Ex. B, attached therein as Ex. A). Upon the case's transfer to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Defendant Foster Wheeler moved for summary judgment on November 5, 2012. See MSJ (dkt. 48, Ex. B). In its motion, Foster Wheeler asserted two bases on which summary judgment should be granted. First, Foster Wheeler argued that Plaintiffs had proffered “no evidence establishing that Decedent was exposed to asbestos from any Foster Wheeler product.” Id. at 9. Second, Foster Wheeler contended that even if Plaintiffs had provided evidence that Hilt had worked around Foster Wheeler products, Plaintiffs had not overcome the “bare metal” defense-that is, they had failed to “submit evidence that Foster Wheeler manufactured, sold or supplied the actual asbestos-containing component parts (e.g., gasket, packing or insulation material) to which [Hilt] was exposed.” Id. at 12.[1]

         In their opposition, Plaintiffs noted that “defendant's motion only raises the issue of exposure to asbestos-containing component parts for which it is liable. No other issues are properly before this Court.” Opp. (dkt. 48, Ex. C) at 2. Among other materials, Plaintiffs submitted declarations from asbestos consultant Charles Ay and physician Dr. Daniel Raybin. See Ay Decl. (dkt. 48, Ex. C, attached therein as Ex. J); Raybin Decl. Based on his experience and review of Hilt's deposition testimony, Mr. Ay concluded:

Because the USS Bradley (FF-1041) and USS Constellation (CVA-64) were relatively new ships when decedent worked aboard them, not only is it more likely than not that decedent was exposed to and inhaled respirable asbestos fibers in concentrations orders of magnitude above background or ambient levels from asbestos-containing refractory original to the Foster boilers but, it is virtually impossible for decedent to have avoided being exposed to asbestos dust from this original refractory.

Ay Decl. ¶ 36. Based on his medical training, experience, and review of the record, Dr. Raybin concluded that “the dust from the asbestos-containing refractory cement from the Foster boilers that decedent breathed in, as a result of his work with and around Foster boilers . . ., was a substantial factor in causing decedent's asbestos-related disease.” Raybin Decl. ¶ 18.

         In its reply, Foster Wheeler argued that the court should discredit Mr. Ay's and Dr. Raybin's opinions because both Mr. Ay and Dr. Raybin lacked personal knowledge, and therefore had no foundation, to form their opinions. See Reply (dkt. 48, Ex. D) at 11-14.

         The Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted summary judgment in favor of Foster Wheeler. In doing so, the court noted that Foster Wheeler's motion contained two arguments:

Product Identification / Causation Foster Wheeler contends that Plaintiff's evidence is insufficient to establish that any product for which it is responsible caused Decedent's asbestos-related injury. Defendant has also submitted objections to Plaintiff's evidence pertaining to product identification and causation (the declarations and reports of Charles Ay and Dr. Daniel Raybin).
Bare Metal Defense Foster Wheeler asserts the bare metal defense, arguing that, under both maritime and California law, it had no duty to warn about and cannot be liable for injury arising from any product or component ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.