The Third Department determined there were questions of fact whether plaintiff (Howard) was exposed to asbestos in his maintenance of defendant’s pumps on Navy submarines: Defendant failed to demonstrate as a matter of law that its products did not contribute to plaintiff’s asbestos-injuries:
“In order to establish entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, defendant bore the initial burden of demonstrating that [its] respective products ‘could not have contributed to the causation’ of [Howard]’s asbestos-related injuries” … . Defendant could not prevail on its motion for summary judgment by “merely pointing to gaps in . . . plaintiff[s’] proof” … . In other words, “[defendant] could not simply argue that plaintiff[s] could not affirmatively prove causation, but rather it had to affirmatively prove, as a matter of law, that there was no causation” … .
… According to Howard [plaintiff], his duties aboard these various vessels required, among other things, that he directly supervise maintenance on defendant’s pumps, which included asbestos-containing gaskets, packing and insulation. Howard stated that he would work in the immediate vicinity of the pumps when the gaskets were removed and scraped from the pumps, and when packing and insulation on the pumps was removed and replaced. Howard v A.O. Smith Water Prods., 2023 NY Slip Op 00017, Third Dept 1-5-23
Practice Point: In a toxic tort case, in order to prevail on a summary judgment motion, defendant must demonstrate as a matter of law that defendant’s products did not cause plaintiff’s injuries. The defendant will not win a summary judgment motion in this context by arguing plaintiff could not prove causation.