867 A.2d 1077 (Md. 2005), 79, Wilson v. John Crane, Inc.

Docket Nº79
Citation867 A.2d 1077, 385 Md. 185
Opinion Judge[10] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cathell, J.
Party NameCatherine WILSON, et al. v. JOHN CRANE, INC., et al.
Case DateFebruary 10, 2005
CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland

Page 1077

867 A.2d 1077 (Md. 2005)

385 Md. 185

Catherine WILSON, et al.

v.

JOHN CRANE, INC., et al.

No. 79

Court of Appeals of Maryland

February 10, 2005

Page 1078

[385 Md. 189] John Amato, IV (Goodman, Meagher & Enoch, LLP, Clifford W. Cuniff, Melvin J. Sykes, on brief), Baltimore, for petitioners.

Thomas P. Bernier (John A. Turlik, Michelle Daugherty Siri, Seal, McCambridge, Singer & Mahoney, Ltd., Baltimore, on brief), Michael A. Pollard (Baker &

Page 1079

McKenzie, Chicago, Peter A. Woolson, Deborah L. Robinson, Genevieve G. Marshall, Robinson Woolson, P.A., Baltimore, on brief), for respondents.

Argued before BELL, C.J. RAKER, WILNER, CATHELL, HARRELL, BATTAGLIA and GREENE, JJ.

CATHELL, J.

This case raises questions relating to the discretion of a trial court when a defendant corporation in asbestos litigation seeks the withdrawal or amendment of admissions that were conclusively established due to that defendant's failure to respond to plaintiffs' request for admissions within the prescribed time frame.

The instant appeal involves a personal injury asbestos case that was tried before a jury in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, beginning on June 26, 2002. 1 Catherine Wilson, surviving spouse, and other immediate family members (collectively, the "petitioners") brought suit against various defendant corporations involved in asbestos-containing product production and/or installation for injuries allegedly sustained as a result of Paul J. Wilson's exposure for over forty years to asbestos while employed at certain job sites in Maryland. These [385 Md. 190] defendant corporations included Garlock, Inc. ("Garlock"), John Crane, Inc. ("Crane") and AC & S, Inc. ("AC & S"). 2 stated, the case was tried before a jury beginning on June 26, 2002. On July 18, 2002, the jury returned verdicts against Garlock, Crane and AC & S and awarded damages in the amount of $2,775,706.75, jointly and severally. Judgment was entered on July 25, 2002, subject to the filing of post-trial motions. All post-trial motions were denied on September 19, 2002. The Final Judgment Order was ultimately entered on December 19, 2002.

Garlock thereafter appealed the decision of the trial court to the Court of Special Appeals and, on May 25, 2004, in an unreported opinion, the intermediate appellate court vacated the judgment of the trial court, 3 finding that the trial court had committed an abuse of its discretion when it refused, by an Order dated June 24, 2002 (one day before the scheduled start of trial), to grant Garlock's motion for leave to withdraw or amend certain admissions that Garlock was held to have made because of its failure to respond in a timely fashion to a request for admissions made by petitioners. As a result of this holding, the Court of Special Appeals further held that the judgment against Crane should be vacated as well, stating, in regard to the question of "whether the judgment in favor of [petitioners] ought to stand against Crane alone," that "we believe it is fairer to Crane to send the entire Wilson case [385 Md. 191] back for retrial" (alteration added). Petitioners thereafter filed a Petition for Writ

Page 1080

of Certiorari to this Court. On October 6, 2004, we granted the petition. Wilson v. John Crane, Inc., --- Md. ----, --- A.2d ---- (2004). Petitioners present three questions for our review:

"1. Does the decision of the Court of Special Appeals, which vacated the judgment against Crane because of 'error' in the trial against Garlock, contravene the prevailing rule of the joint and several liability of joint tortfeasors?

2. Even if the 'fairness' standard announced by the Court of Special Appeals were appropriate, did the decision below apply the standard unfairly and reach an unfair result?

3. Did the Court of Special Appeals err in holding [the trial court's] ruling on Garlock's admissions to be prejudicial abuse, and not a fair exercise, of the trial court's discretion?" [Alterations added.]

We hold that the trial court, in disallowing Garlock leave to withdraw or amend certain admissions deemed to have been conclusively established by default, did not commit an abuse of its discretion. The trial court specifically found that petitioners would suffer prejudice if Garlock was allowed to withdraw or amend its admissions, as Garlock did not bring its motion to withdraw or amend until after discovery was closed and the trial was scheduled to begin within days. We do not find that this determination by the trial court was so untenable as to constitute an abuse of that court's discretion.

Because we hold that the trial court did not commit an abuse of discretion in denying Garlock's motion to withdraw or for amendment of its admissions, thereby reversing the decision of the Court of Special Appeals on that particular issue, there is no need for this Court to address directly the issues raised by petitioners regarding whether the intermediate appellate court erred in vacating the judgment against Crane as a result of its finding that the trial court committed an abuse of its discretion in relation to Garlock's motion to withdraw or [385 Md. 192] to amend its admissions. As those issues existed only where an abuse of discretion was held to have occurred and we now hold that no such abuse occurred, to address those additional issues would be extraneous and unnecessary.

Facts

Paul J. Wilson was an electrician employed at several job sites in Maryland for a period extending over forty years. His employment history included, but was not limited to, work at Bethlehem Steel's Key Highway Shipyard, Maryland Shipbuilding and Drydock and Western Electric's telephone parts manufacturing plant in Baltimore. In 1987 Wilson was diagnosed as suffering from asbestosis, a scarring of the lungs that leads to breathing problems and heart failure. As its name suggests, the chronic ailment is caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers over a period of time. In July 1998, Wilson was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma 4 after visiting a doctor because of concerns over his [385 Md. 193] loss of

Page 1081

appetite and fifty-pound weight loss in a six-month period. Following aggressive treatments to halt the progression of the cancer, treatments that included radiation therapy and the removal of his entire left lung, Wilson eventually succumbed to the disease on November 8, 1998.

On March 2, 2000, petitioners brought suit in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City for personal injuries and wrongful death, naming as defendants numerous corporations that petitioners claimed had been involved in the manufacturing, distribution and/or installation of asbestos-containing products to which Wilson was alleged to have been regularly exposed due to his employment. Respondents Garlock and John Crane were two of these named defendant corporations. The suit alleged that it was Wilson's continuous exposure to asbestos fibers that caused his illness and eventual death from mesothelioma.

When the trial commenced in the circuit court on June 26, 2002, for varying reasons not pertinent to the case at bar, only three of the defendant corporations remained in the case--Garlock, Crane and AC & S. Petitioners' case against these remaining corporations relied primarily upon the testimony of two of Wilson's co-workers at Western Electric, along with expert testimony relating to the presence of asbestos in the corporations' products, the history of asbestos-related diseases [385 Md. 194] generally and the particular disease history of Wilson. There is little doubt, however, that petitioners' case against Garlock was aided when the trial court allowed certain admissions to be read to the jury that stated that Garlock manufactured asbestos-containing gaskets that were used at both Maryland Shipbuilding and Drydock and Western Electric and that Wilson inhaled the released fibers from these gaskets while he was employed at these places. These admissions were admittedly the result of Garlock not timely answering petitioners' electronically-filed "First Request for Admission of Facts and Genuineness of Documents," 5 which was filed on April 5,

Page 1082

2002, and sent to "each direct defendant and its attorney of record." Garlock claims that its failure to respond to petitioners' requests was an "excusable and inadvertent error." Garlock, however, does not deny or dispute that the requests were filed. 6 As we shall discuss, infra, the propriety of the trial court in not allowing Garlock leave to file responses to the requests or to withdraw or amend these specific admissions is the issue at the heart of this appeal.

On July 18, 2002, the jury announced its verdict, finding, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Garlock, Crane and AC & S were liable for their negligence in the "manufacture, sale, supply and/or distribution of [their] asbestos-containing products[]" and that "Paul J. Wilson's exposure to the asbestos-containing products manufactured, sold, supplied and/or distributed by the defendants ... was a substantial contributing factor in the development of his mesothelioma" (alteration added). The jury verdict totaled $2,775,706.75 against Garlock, Crane and AC & S, jointly and severally. Because AC & S, on September 16, 2002, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, only Garlock and John Crane remain liable, jointly and severally, for the amount of the jury verdict. 7

Discussion

Petitioners contend that the Court of Special Appeals erred when it found that the trial court committed an abuse of its discretion when it denied Garlock leave to file responses or to withdraw or amend certain admissions Garlock was held to have made regarding its culpability in manufacturing and distributing asbestos-containing products, which were alleged to

Page 1083

...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP
78 practice notes
  • 16 A.3d 159 (Md. 2011), 39-2010, Scapa Dryer Fabrics, Inc. v. Saville
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 23 Marzo 2011
    ...the jury for consideration as part of Scapa's case-in-chief against the cross-defendants and co-defendant. See Wilson v. John Crane, Inc., 385 Md. 185, 201, 867 A.2d 1077, 1086 (2005) (holding that Rule 2-404 admissions were relevant to the merits of the claim against an asbestos-containing......
  • 26 A.3d 1012 (Md.App. 2011), 2293-2009, Mitchell v. Housing Authority of Baltimore City
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 25 Mayo 2011
    ...of facts and inferences before the court [ ]’ ... or when the ruling is ‘ violative of fact and logic.’ " Wilson v. John Crane, Inc., 385 Md. 185, 198, 867 A.2d 1077 (2005), (quoting In re Adoption/Guardianship No. 3598, 347 Md. 295, 312-13, 701 A.2d 110 (1997)). " The failure to ......
  • 75 A.3d 344 (Md.App. 2013), 271-2012, Roane v. Maryland Bd. of Physicians
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 5 Septiembre 2013
    ...by the [trial] court." Schade v. Md. State Bd. of Elections, 401 Md. 1, 34, 930 A.2d 304 (2007) (quoting Wilson v. John Crane, Inc., 385 Md. 185, 198, 867 A.2d 1077 (2005)). C. The Board Was Authorized To Pursue Summary Suspension And Revocation Simultaneously. Dr. Roane contends that ......
  • 81 A.3d 383 (Md. 2013), 29-2013, Simmons v. State
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 18 Diciembre 2013
    ...Stabb v. State, 423 Md. 454, 465, 31 A.3d 922, 928 (2011) (citations and quotations omitted); [436 Md. 213] Wilson v. John Crane, Inc., 385 Md. 185, 198, 867 A.2d 1077, 1084 (2005) ( " There is an abuse of discretion where no reasonable person would take the view adopted by the trial c......
  • Free signup to view additional results
77 cases
  • 16 A.3d 159 (Md. 2011), 39-2010, Scapa Dryer Fabrics, Inc. v. Saville
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 23 Marzo 2011
    ...the jury for consideration as part of Scapa's case-in-chief against the cross-defendants and co-defendant. See Wilson v. John Crane, Inc., 385 Md. 185, 201, 867 A.2d 1077, 1086 (2005) (holding that Rule 2-404 admissions were relevant to the merits of the claim against an asbestos-containing......
  • 26 A.3d 1012 (Md.App. 2011), 2293-2009, Mitchell v. Housing Authority of Baltimore City
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 25 Mayo 2011
    ...of facts and inferences before the court [ ]’ ... or when the ruling is ‘ violative of fact and logic.’ " Wilson v. John Crane, Inc., 385 Md. 185, 198, 867 A.2d 1077 (2005), (quoting In re Adoption/Guardianship No. 3598, 347 Md. 295, 312-13, 701 A.2d 110 (1997)). " The failure to ......
  • 75 A.3d 344 (Md.App. 2013), 271-2012, Roane v. Maryland Bd. of Physicians
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 5 Septiembre 2013
    ...by the [trial] court." Schade v. Md. State Bd. of Elections, 401 Md. 1, 34, 930 A.2d 304 (2007) (quoting Wilson v. John Crane, Inc., 385 Md. 185, 198, 867 A.2d 1077 (2005)). C. The Board Was Authorized To Pursue Summary Suspension And Revocation Simultaneously. Dr. Roane contends that ......
  • 81 A.3d 383 (Md. 2013), 29-2013, Simmons v. State
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 18 Diciembre 2013
    ...Stabb v. State, 423 Md. 454, 465, 31 A.3d 922, 928 (2011) (citations and quotations omitted); [436 Md. 213] Wilson v. John Crane, Inc., 385 Md. 185, 198, 867 A.2d 1077, 1084 (2005) ( " There is an abuse of discretion where no reasonable person would take the view adopted by the trial c......
  • Free signup to view additional results
1 books & journal articles