Anchor Packing Co. v. Grimshaw

Citation692 A.2d 5,115 Md.App. 134
Decision Date01 September 1996
Docket NumberNo. 1519,1519
Parties, Prod.Liab.Rep. (CCH) P 14,907 The ANCHOR PACKING COMPANY, et al. v. John GRIMSHAW, et al. ,
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland

Page 134

115 Md.App. 134
692 A.2d 5, Prod.Liab.Rep. (CCH) P 14,907
The ANCHOR PACKING COMPANY, et al.
v.
John GRIMSHAW, et al.
No. 1519, Sept. Term, 1996.
Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.
April 3, 1997.

[692 A.2d 10]

Page 143

Steven J. Parrott (Nancy Leibowitz and Hartman and Parrott, on the brief for appellant, Anchor Packing Co.), Annapolis, John P. Sweeney (Gregory Lockwood, Cheryl Z. Lardieri and Miles & Stockbridge, on the brief for appellant, Owens Corning), Baltimore, Gardner M. Duvall (Dwight W. Stone, II, Padriac McSherry Morton and Whiteford, Taylor & Preston, L.L.P., on the brief for appellant, Porter Hayden), Baltimore, (Robert J. Lynott, Peter W. Taliaferro, Thomas C. Swiss and Thomas & Libowitz, P.A., on the brief for appellant, Hopeman Brothers), Baltimore, for appellants.

William G. Burgy (Peter T. Nicholl, Patrick S. Guilfoyle, on the brief for appellee, Grimshaw), Baltimore, Thomas P. Kelly (Edward J. Lilly and Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos, on the brief for appellees, Zumas and McCafferty), Baltimore, (David

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M. Layton and Ashcraft & Gerel, Baltimore, John Herrick, Theodore H.Huge and Ness, Motley, Loadholt, Richardson & Poole, Charleston, SC, on the brief for appellee, Granski), (Edward F. Houff, R. Thomas Radcliffe, Jr., Church & Houff, P.A., Baltimore, J. Ric Gass, Brian Trexell and Kravit, Gass & Weber, Milwaukee, WI, on the brief for appellee, Westinghouse Electric Corp.), for appellees.

Argued before MOYLAN and DAVIS, JJ., and THEODORE G. BLOOM (retired), specially assigned.

DAVIS, Judge.

This appeal involves four of the five mesothelioma cases consolidated for trial before the Circuit Court for Baltimore City under the caption Casimir Balonis, et al. v. ACandS, et al., Case No. 9526101. Nick Zumas, Patrick McCaffery, John Grimshaw, and Ethel Granski 1 all filed suits in the circuit court against numerous defendants, alleging that he or she contracted asbestosrelated mesothelioma from either workplace or household exposure to defendants' products. Trial began on September 21, 1995, and the jury returned verdicts on December 21, 1995.

In Grimshaw, the jury returned verdicts in favor of Barbara Bullinger, personal representative of the estate, against Owens-Corning, f/k/a Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corporation (OC), Porter Hayden Company (Porter Hayden), and Anchor Packing Company (Anchor) in the amount of $1,100,000. Verdicts were also returned in favor of those defendants against cross-defendants Owens-Illinois, Inc. (O-I), Foster-Wheeler Corporation (Foster-Wheeler), Armstrong World Industries, Inc. (AWI), GAF Corporation (GAF), ACMC, Inc., ACandS, Inc. (ACandS), Hopeman Brothers, Inc. (Hopeman), Pittsburgh

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Corning Corporation (PCC), and Rapid-American Corporation (Rapid). The jury [692 A.2d 11] also returned a verdict in favor of OC against third-party defendant Westinghouse Electric Corporation (Westinghouse).

In Granski, the jury returned verdicts in favor of Ethel Granski against OC in the amount of $2,210,531, plus $1,000,000 for loss of consortium. The jury also returned verdicts against cross-defendants O-I, Porter Hayden, Rapid, and PCC.

In McCaffery, the jury returned a verdict in Elizabeth McCaffery's favor, as personal representative of the estate, against OC in the amount of $3,137,943 in compensatory damages. The jury also awarded Ms. McCaffery $1,000,000 for her loss of consortium claim and $2,300,000 in her wrongful death action. The jury returned verdicts against cross-defendants ACandS, Foster-Wheeler, PCC, Porter Hayden, Rapid, and Westinghouse.

In Zumas, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Ann Zumas, as personal representative of the estate, against OC in the amount of $2,523,189 in compensatory damages. The jury also awarded Ms. Zumas $1,000,000 for her loss of consortium claim and $1,200,000 for her wrongful death action. In addition, the jury returned verdicts against cross-defendants Hopeman, AWI, ACandS, PCC, GAF, O-I, Rapid, and Westinghouse.

The trial court entered final judgments in Granski and Zumas on March 11, 1996, in Grimshaw on April 16, 1996, and in McCaffery on April 17, 1996. The final judgments reflect the effects of settlements by joint tort-feasors and by the Manville Personal Injury Settlement Trust (Trust). Anchor, OC, Porter Hayden, Hopeman, and Westinghouse all noted timely appeals.

Three questions, presented for our review by appellants Anchor, OC, and Porter Hayden, pertain to all four cases on appeal. We restate them as follows:

I. Does the statutory cap on noneconomic damages established by MD.CODE (1974, 1995 REPL.VOL.), § 11-108 OF

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THE COURTS & JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS ARTICLE (C.J.) apply to plaintiffs' claims for wrongful death, loss of consortium, and personal injury damages resulting from exposure to asbestos?

II. Did the trial court err in refusing to produce confidential settlement agreements?

III. Did the trial court err by not reducing the final judgments in consideration of a federal order controlling the settlement of a third-party trust?

The following questions, which we have restated, presented by Anchor, OC, and Porter Hayden, are common to all defendants in Grimshaw:

IV. Did the trial court err when it denied a motion for remittitur or a new trial to conform the judgment to the amount of stipulated damages?

V. Did the court err when it issued its final judgment declaring that third-party Westinghouse was an adjudicated joint tort-feasor, but its liability was not subject to adjudication?

The next question is presented by Porter Hayden in Grimshaw. We restate it below:

VI. Should the trial court have reduced the judgment based on the pro rata release of a third party against whom default had been entered?

Two questions, presented by Anchor in Grimshaw, are restated by us as follows:

VII. Did the trial court err in submitting the issue of Anchor's liability to the jury based on its finding that plaintiff produced sufficient evidence from which a jury could reasonably conclude that Anchor's asbestos-containing products were a substantial factor in the development of plaintiff's mesothelioma?

VIII. Did the trial court err in submitting the issue of Anchor's liability to the jury based on its finding that plaintiff produced sufficient evidence to establish that Anchor

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knew or should have known that the gasket or packing products it sold were defective or unreasonably dangerous?

The following questions presented by OC are restated below:

IX. Did the trial court err in refusing to grant OC's motion for judgment in Granski?

[692 A.2d 12] X. Did the trial court err in denying OC's motion for judgment in Zumas, or in the alternative, in granting plaintiffs' motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict in Zumas?

The following question is presented by Hopeman in Zumas:

XI. Did the trial court properly deny Hopeman's motion for judgment and motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict based on its finding that OC established legally sufficient evidence to support a jury finding that Hopeman's use of asbestos-containing products was a substantial factor in causing Zumas's mesothelioma?

FACTS

I. JOHN GRIMSHAW

John Grimshaw was born on November 16, 1916. Grimshaw married Edith Adelle on June 10, 1949, and the two were married for forty-nine years until her death on August 26, 1988. The Grimshaws had two daughters, Barbara Bullinger and Joanne Strickline, three grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.

Grimshaw worked at Bethlehem Steel's Sparrows Point Shipyard (Shipyard) from 1940 to 1947 and from 1951 to 1979. During his career, Grimshaw worked as a machinist and a ratesetter. While at the Shipyard, Grimshaw was exposed to asbestos-containing products. Grimshaw began to feel ill in early June 1994, and he was diagnosed with mesothelioma later that month. Grimshaw died in January 1995. His de bene esse deposition was taken in October 1994, and the video-taped deposition was utilized at trial.

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II. ETHEL GRANSKI

Ethel Granski was born on August 23, 1948. From 1953 to 1963, Gene Abrams, Ethel Granski's stepfather, was either living with or married to Granski's mother, Rose Abrams. During this period of ten years, Abrams worked at various places, including Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock, as an insulator, where, he claims, he was exposed to asbestos-containing products. When Granski was eight or nine, she began washing Abrams's work clothes, which allegedly were covered in asbestos dust when carried into their home. Granski became ill as a result of asbestos exposure and was diagnosed with mesothelioma in August 1993. Granski was still living at the time of trial.

III. PATRICK McCAFFERY, SR.

McCaffery was born on March 6, 1939; in 1959 he married Elizabeth. From 1968 to 1970, McCaffery was a sheet metal worker at the Shipyard. During the course of his employment at the Shipyard, he was exposed to asbestos-containing products. McCaffery began feeling ill in November or December 1993 and was diagnosed with mesothelioma in January 1994. McCaffery died from mesothelioma on June 15, 1995, at the age of 56.

IV. NICK ZUMAS

Zumas was born on October 14, 1925. In 1957 he married Anna Marie, from whom he was divorced in 1970. He remarried in 1982. From 1955 to 1987, Zumas worked as a machinist and millwright at the Shipyard. During the course of his employment, Zumas was exposed to products containing asbestos. Zumas began feeling ill in October 1993 and was diagnosed with mesothelioma in July 1994. He committed suicide at the age of 69, on May 7, 1995. Zumas's deposition testimony was presented at trial.

These facts will be supplemented throughout this opinion as needed.

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I

APPLICATION OF THE STATUTORY CAP ON NONECONOMIC DAMAGES

The jury awarded damages to plaintiffs for personal injury, loss of consortium, and wrongful death. The Grimshaw estate was awarded noneconomic damages of $1,000,000. Ms. Granski was awarded noneconomic...

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