Kentucky Court grants summary judgment in asbestos case

by Mandy Hicks

Mesothelioma can take several forms:  pleural (affecting the lungs), peritoneal (in the abdominal lining), or pericardial (developing in the heart). The prognosis is not good – most people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma have only six months to two years to live.

All three forms of the disease are believed to be caused by the victim’s exposure to asbestos. If you are considering filing an asbestos case, know that exposure even as far back as 50 years ago can still cause mesothelioma today. Most often, exposure occurs in an industrial setting. Asbestos can be found in construction materials, buildings, and other products. Firefighters, mechanics, shipyard workers, pipe fitters, and demolition crew members are common victims of mesothelioma.

Facts of the Case

In an unpublished appellate court decision arising in Caldwell County Circuit Court, the plaintiff was the executrix of the estate of a man who was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in 2012. The man filed a product liability lawsuit against the defendants, a brake supply company and others. After he passed away in 2013, his estate was substituted as the plaintiff in his asbestos case.

According to court documents, the man’s exposure to asbestos likely occurred during the course of three particular jobs. He worked in an auto parts store from 1969-1970, at a trucking company in 1976, and at a gas company from 1970-1975 and from 1980-1983. He may also have been exposed to asbestos while replacing the brakes on his personal vehicles between 1966-1990 and while installing blown insulation in his home.

The plaintiff settled the claim against one defendant, and the trial court granted summary judgment to several others on the ground that the plaintiff had failed to present sufficient evidence that the decedent was exposed to asbestos dust made or sold by the defendants or that such exposure was a substantial cause of the decedent’s illness and subsequent death. The plaintiff appealed, and two of the defendants cross-appealed.

Decision of the Commonwealth of Kentucky Court of Appeals

On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s summary judgment order and dismissed the cross-appeals as moot. According to the court, the plaintiff failed to meet her burden of proof to overcome the defendants’ motions for summary judgment. She was required to show not only that the decedent was exposed to asbestos and that this exposure was a substantial cause of his mesothelioma but also that the decedent’s injuries were “substantially caused by the actions of these particular manufacturers.”

The court determined that, although the plaintiff had shown that there was “a mere possibility” that the decedent was exposed to asbestos products made by some of the defendants, there was no direct or circumstantial evidence that the decedent was actually exposed to any of the defendants’ products. The court further opined that, as to another defendant, the plaintiff had failed to establish her claim within a reasonable degree of probability.

Need to Talk to a Knowledgeable Kentucky Product Liability Lawyer? 

Manufacturers sometimes make billions of dollars from the sale of defective products. If you or a loved one has been hurt by an allegedly dangerous product, the experienced Kentucky product liability attorneys at English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley can help you investigate whether you have a claim against the company that made or sold the product in question. For a free consultation, call us at 270-781-6500. We serve clients throughout both Kentucky and Tennessee from our offices, conveniently located in Bowling Green.

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