914 F.2d 360 (3rd Cir. 1990), 89-2123, Robertson v. Allied Signal, Inc.

Docket Nº:Moyer, in No. 89-2123
Citation:914 F.2d 360
Party Name:ROBERTSON, Charles A. and Robertson, Era, H/W Rudolph, Wayne R. and Rudolph, Elizabeth, H/W Grubb, John L. and Grubb, Marion L., H/W Stopfel, Larry C. and Stopfel, Mary Ann, H/W Gincley, Ronald S. and Gincley, Lucille L., H/W Wertman, Winfred R. and Wertman, Charlotte, H/W Sgro, James A. and Sgro, Carol, H/W Connelly, John J., Jr. and Connelly, Gra
Case Date:August 28, 1990
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
 
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Page 360

914 F.2d 360 (3rd Cir. 1990)

ROBERTSON, Charles A. and Robertson, Era, H/W Rudolph, Wayne

R. and Rudolph, Elizabeth, H/W Grubb, John L. and Grubb,

Marion L., H/W Stopfel, Larry C. and Stopfel, Mary Ann, H/W

Gincley, Ronald S. and Gincley, Lucille L., H/W Wertman,

Winfred R. and Wertman, Charlotte, H/W Sgro, James A. and

Sgro, Carol, H/W Connelly, John J., Jr. and Connelly, Grace,

H/W Reimert, Francis J. and Reimert, Belva J., H/W Stamm,

George C. and Stamm, Melba, H/W Rohrbach, Robert L. and

Rohrbach, Marie C., H/W Reimert, Kenneth P. and Reimert,

Sam, H/W Davis, John and Davis, Joanne, H/W Stevens, Henry

C. and Stevens, Virginia I., H/W

v.

ALLIED SIGNAL, INC.; Anchor Packing Company, Inc.; A.W.

Chesteron, Inc.; The Celotex Corporation, Inc.; Combustion

Engineering Co, Inc.; Eagle Picher Industries, Inc.;

Empire Ace Insulation Mgf., Corp.; Fibreboard Corporation;

Flexitallic Gasket Company, Inc.; Flintkote Company, Inc.;

Gaf Corporation, Inc.; Garlock, Inc.; John Crane, Inc.;

Keene Corporation, Inc.; Monsanto Company; National Gypsum

Company, Inc.; Owens Corning Fiberglas Corp.,

Owens-Illinois, Inc.' Pfizer, Inc.; Raymark Industries,

Inc.; Rock Wood Manufacturing Co., Inc.; R.T. Vanderbilt

Co., Inc.; Sepco Corporation; T & N, PLC; Union Carbide

Corporation; Uniroyal, Inc.; United States Gypsum Company;

Vermont Talc, Inc.; Witco Corporation, Inc.

Appeal of Kenneth REIMERT, Sam Reimert, John Davis and

Joanne Davis, Stanley Yourkavitch and Catherine

Yourkavitch, Ammon Moyer and Beatrice

Moyer, in No. 89-2123

DRAUSCHAK, Paul F. and Drauschak, Barbara A., H/W Alex,

Michael P., Sr. and Alex, Janet L., H/W Messer, Gerald N.,

Jr. and Messer, Carol, H/W Kirlin, Robert T. and Kirlin,

Darlene A., H/W Moyer, Ammon P. and Moyer, Beatrice, H/W

Faust, Luther A. and Faust, Kathryn E., H/W Zabrenski,

Stanley and Zabrenski, Jennie M., H/W Hunsberger, Walter A.

and Hunsberger, Velva R., H/W Ludwig, Donald C. and Ludwig,

Shirley, H/W Yourkavitch, Stanley and Yourkavitch,

Catherine, H/W Kline, Willard J. and Kline, Eleanor, H/W

Silknitter, Walter L. and Silknitter, Ethyle, H/W Beidler,

Edwin L. and Beidler, Thelma, H/W Kochish, Stephen J. and

Kochish, Mary Jane, H/W

v.

ALLIED SIGNAL, INC.; Anchor Packing Company, Inc.; A.W.

Chesteron, Inc.; The Celotex Corporation, Inc.; Combustion

Engineering Co, Inc.; Eagle Picher Industries, Inc.;

Empire Ace Insulation Mgf., Corp.; Fibreboard Corporation;

Flexitallic Gasket Company, Inc.; Flintkote Company, Inc.;

GAF Corporation, Inc.; Garlock, Inc.; John Crane, Inc.;

Keene Corporation, Inc.; Monsanto Company; National Gypsum

Company, Inc.; Owens Corning Fiberglas Corp.,

Owens-Illinois, Inc.' Pfizer, Inc.; Raymark Industries,

Inc.; Rock Wood Manufacturing Co., Inc.; R.T. Vanderbilt

Co., Inc.; Sepco Corporation; T & N, PLC; Union Carbide

Corporation; Uniroyal, Inc.; United States Gypsum Company;

Vermont Talc, Inc.; Witco Corporation, Inc.

Appeal of Edwin BEIDLER and Thelma Beidler, James Sgro and

Carol Sgro, Larry Stopfel and Mary Ann Stopfel,

Willard Kline and Eleanor Kline.

Nos. 89-2123 and 89-2124.

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

August 28, 1990

Argued May 17, 1990.

Rehearing and Rehearing In Banc Denied Oct. 11, 1990.

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Page 363

Norman Perlberger (argued), Perlberger & Haft, P.C., Bala Cynwyd, Pa., Jeffrey C. Schwartz, Charles A. Klein, Allen L. Rothenberg, P.C., Philadelphia, Pa., for appellants.

Kenneth Carleton Frazier (argued), Jerry H. Seidler, Stewart Dalzell, Drinker, Biddle & Reath, Philadelphia, Pa., for appellee, John Crane, Inc.

Muriel L. Goode, Cohen, Shapiro, Polisher, Shiekman & Cohen, Philadelphia, Pa., for appellee, Uniroyal, Inc.

G. Daniel Bruch, Jr. (argued), Swartz, Campbell & Detweiler, Philadelphia, Pa., Martin J. Murphy, Davis & Young Co., L.P.A., Cleveland, Ohio (Arvin Maskin, Barbara E. Taylor, Weil, Gotshal & Manges, New York City, of counsel), for appellee, Eagle Picher Industries, Inc.

Frederic E. Orlansky, Alba E. Arriaga, Patrick A. Hewitt (argued), Riley & DeFalice, Pittsburgh, Pa., for appellee, Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp.

Charles P. Goodell (argued), Susan T. Preston, Thomas J. Cullen, Jr., Goodell, Devries, Leech & Gray, Baltimore, Md., John F. Kent, Jennifer K. Chun, Marks, Kent & O'Neill, P.C., Philadelphia, Pa., for appellee, Vermont Talc, Inc.

Bernard L. Levinthal, Goldfein & Joseph, Philadelphia, Pa., for appellee, Garlock, Inc.

G. Wayne Renneisen (argued), William F. Kiniry, Jr., Frederick M. Walton, Jr., Harvey, Pennington, Herting & Renneisen, Ltd., Philadelphia, Pa., for appellee, Allied-Signal, Inc.

Page 364

Marilyn Heffley, Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay, Philadelphia, Pa., for appellees, Owens-Illinois, Inc. and Fibreboard Corp.

Edward J. Wilbraham, Robert B. Lawler, Wilbraham & Coleman, Philadelphia, Pa., (Elizabeth Runyan Geise, J. Theodore Gentry, Shea & Gardner, Washington, D.C., of counsel), for amicus curiae Center for Claims Resolution.

Theodore Goldberg, Henderson & Goldberg, P.C., Pittsburgh, Pa., for amicus curiae in Support of appellant.

Before: MANSMANN and SCIRICA, Circuit Judges, and STANDISH, District Judge. [*]

OPINION

MANSMANN, Circuit Judge.

In this diversity matter we are asked to examine the substantive tort law of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in order to determine the role of expert testimony and the so-called "fiber drift" theory in proving causation in cases of alleged asbestos-related injury. Because the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has not addressed the question before us, our task is to predict the position which that court would take in resolving this dispute. We conclude that the fiber drift theory, when grounded in the standards set forth in Pennsylvania decisions, is a factor to be considered in determining whether a plaintiff has adduced evidence of causation sufficient to withstand a motion for summary judgment.

I.

These actions, brought by eight plaintiffs and their spouses, were part of a series of complaints filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of approximately 600 former employees of the former Firestone Tire and Rubber Company Plant in Pottstown, Pennsylvania ("Firestone"). These suits, a product of the National Tire Workers Litigation Project, named as defendants thirty manufacturers and suppliers of asbestos products to which the plaintiffs were allegedly exposed while employed at Firestone. The plaintiffs claim personal injury as a result of exposure to various asbestos-containing products including insulation, gaskets, friction materials, fillers, talc and soapstone. The plaintiffs allege that their asbestos-related personal injuries were caused in substantial part by exposure to asbestos shed by brake linings manufactured by Bendix, the predecessor to defendant Allied-Signal, Inc., cement manufactured by Eagle-Picher Industries, Inc., talc containing asbestos contaminants manufactured by Vermont Talc, Inc. and gaskets and packing manufactured by John Crane, Inc.

The cases of these eight plaintiffs were scheduled for two separate trials, one to begin on September 25, 1989, and the other on October 2, 1989. 1 Between September 13, 1989 and October 4, 1989, four defendants, Allied Signal Inc., Eagle-Picher Industries, Inc., John Crane, Inc. and Vermont Talc, Inc. filed motions for summary judgment. The motions of Defendants Eagle-Picher and John Crane were filed in the cases of Plaintiffs Reimert, Yourkavitch, Moyer and Davis only. All of the motions focused on the issue of causation. Specifically, the defendants contended that despite extensive discovery, the plaintiffs had failed to establish the requisite nexus between their alleged injuries and particular asbestos-containing products manufactured by the defendants.

The plaintiffs responded to the motions for summary judgment, maintaining that their own deposition testimony, the testimony of product identification witnesses, and the testimony of expert scientific witnesses would provide sufficient evidence of use and deterioration of the defendants' asbestos-containing products throughout the Firestone plant for a jury reasonably to

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infer that fibers from these products contributed substantially to the plaintiffs' injuries.

In arguing that the causation issue should be submitted to the jury, the plaintiffs placed principal reliance upon the testimony of scientific witnesses. These witnesses testified that asbestos-containing products of the type manufactured by the defendants would have been capable of emitting asbestos fibers in the Firestone plant. These fibers could have been carried by air currents and other means to various parts of the plant where they may have been inhaled by the plaintiffs, thus contributing to the alleged asbestos-related injuries. This theory that airborne asbestos fibers contribute to bystander disease is characterized as the "ambient air" theory, "re-entrainment," or as "fiber drift." For the purposes of this opinion, we adopt the last term.

On November 1, 1989, the district court granted the defendants' summary judgment motions with respect to all of the plaintiffs, 2 stating Pennsylvania substantive law as follows:

To withstand summary judgment, plaintiffs must present some competent evidence that the defendant's product was present in the workplace, that the plaintiffs worked in the vicinity of the product's use on a regular basis and inhaled asbestos fibers...

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