Edwards v. Scapa Waycross, Inc., 5931

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtWILLIAMS, C.J.
PartiesStephen R. Edwards, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Steven Redfearn Stewart, Respondent, v. Scapa Waycross, Inc., Appellant.
Decision Date03 August 2022
Docket Number5931,Appellate Case 2019-000649


Stephen R. Edwards, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Steven Redfearn Stewart, Respondent,

Scapa Waycross, Inc., Appellant.

No. 5931

Appellate Case No. 2019-000649

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

August 3, 2022

Heard April 14, 2022

Appeal From York County Jean Hoefer Toal, Acting Circuit Court Judge

William Peele Early, of Pierce, Sloan, Wilson, Kennedy & Early, LLC, of Charleston; Joseph C. Wilson, IV, of Joseph C Wilson Law Firm LLC, of Folly Beach; S. Christopher Collier, of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, of Atlanta, Georgia; and Robert B. Gilbreath, of Hawkins Parnell & Young LLP, of Dallas, Texas, all for Appellant.

Mona Lisa Wallace, of Wallace & Graham PA, of Salisbury, North Carolina; Kathleen Chewning Barnes, of Barnes Law Firm LLC, of Hampton; Gregory Lynn Hyland, of Gregory L. Hyland Attorney at Law LLC, of Summerville; Thomas H. Hart, III, of Hart Law LLC, of Summerville; Frederick John Jekel, of Leventis &


Ransom, of Columbia; and William M. Graham, of Wallace & Graham PA, of Salisbury, North Carolina, all for Respondent.


In this mesothelioma case, Scapa Waycross, Inc. (Scapa) appeals the trial court's (1) denial of its motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV); (2) granting a new trial nisi additur for Stephen Redfern Stewart's estate, represented by his son Stephen R. Edwards, regarding survival damages; (3) denial to reallocate Stewart's pretrial settlement proceeds; and (4) refusal to admit certain bankruptcy claim forms Stewart filed against other manufacturers of asbestos-containing products. Principally, Scapa contends Stewart failed to provide legally sufficient evidence to prove Stewart's workplace exposure to its products was a substantial factor that caused his mesothelioma. We affirm.


Stewart was employed by Bowater Southern Paper Corporation from 1963 to 2002 in Catawba, South Carolina. During his employment, Stewart worked on only paper machine #1, a machine spanning roughly 150 yards that transformed wood pulp into paper. The machine was composed of four large dryer sections, or drums, and each section had a top and bottom dryer felt. Dryer felts were large, weighing well over one thousand pounds and measuring over 150 feet long and twenty feet wide. The wood pulp sat between the two dryer felts as the felts passed the pulp continuously over each dryer section; the felts kept the pulp against the dryer sections and absorbed moisture. A number of the dryer felts used by Bowater on machine #1 were supplied by Scapa. Of the seventy-two dryer felts Scapa sold Bowater between 1963 and 1981, twenty-three contained asbestos. Asbestos constituted between 30 and 70% of a dryer felt's total composition in that time period. An expert who tested two Scapa asbestos-containing dryer felts that Bowater used on machine #1 during Stewart's employment stated that one contained roughly 1,000 pounds of asbestos and the other contained roughly 752 pounds.

While at Bowater, Stewart's job responsibilities routinely involved installing, cleaning, removing, and disposing of dryer felts and cleaning the entire machine. Although Stewart and his coworkers were unable to identify which dryer felts contained asbestos using the naked eye, they all testified to the amount of dust the dryer felts released into the air during the installation, removal, and disposal process, and breathing in the dust. One coworker testified that after installing a


dryer felt, the employees would have to use an air hose to blow themselves off due to the amount of "lint" the dryer felt left on their clothes. They also discussed the felt removal process in which they used Stanley knives to cut the felts into smaller pieces, freeing the felts from the machine and allowing them to drop into the basement. This process also caused the felts to visibly release dust into the air. Dryer felts would also malfunction and tear off of the machine during the manufacturing process causing doors on the machine to open and release paper particles and dust into the air.

Stewart and his coworkers also testified about keeping machine #1 and its building clean-a process that required freeing large amounts of dust and paper particles from the machine and cleaning up the dust. To perform this task, the men would use high-pressure, compressed air hoses to release old dust from the machine. They also used the hoses to blow the dryer felts to release old, caked paper and dust from the felts. This process produced large amounts of dust, or felt hairs, into the air. One coworker testified that during a downtime for the machine, when the men cleaned it or replaced old dryer felts, the floor could be covered with as much as six inches of dust and old paper particles. That coworker also testified that he had seen Stewart covered from head to toe with felt dust and paper after cleaning machine #1 during a down time.

Stewart retired from Bowater in 2002, and in September of 2012 he was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, an aggressive form of lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure and inhalation. In February 2013, Stewart initiated this lawsuit against several entities whose business involved producing, using, or selling asbestos containing products. He asserted claims for strict liability, negligence, and breach of the implied warranty of merchantability. In May 2013, Stewart filed an amended complaint that added Scapa to the lawsuit.

On August 23, 2013, at the age of sixty-nine, Stewart died from mesothelioma, and Edwards, individually and as personal representative of Stewart's estate, filed a motion to substitute party and a motion to file a second amended complaint. Edwards[1] filed the second amended complaint in November 2013, substituting Stewart's personal representative as the plaintiff and adding claims for wrongful death and survival. Prior to trial, Stewart settled with all defendants except for Scapa, which proceeded to trial. The jury returned a verdict for Stewart on the negligence claim and awarded $600,000 in damages for the survival action and $100,000 in damages for the wrongful death action.


Following the verdict, Scapa filed motions for setoff, for production of Stewart's settlements and payments with all third-party tortfeasors, and for JNOV. Stewart did not oppose the motion for setoff, but he filed a motion for new trial nisi additur, asking the trial court to increase the verdict to $2.3 million for the survival claim and $600,000 for the wrongful death claim. After a hearing in which the trial court indicated its intent to grant the motion for additur, Scapa filed a motion to reallocate Stewart's settlement proceeds. Stewart had received $1.036 million in prior settlements and he had uniformly allocated 80% of the proceeds towards the wrongful death claim and the remainder to the survival claim.

The trial court issued an order addressing each post trial motion. The trial court granted Stewart's motion for new trial nisi additur and increased the survival damages award from $600,000 to $1 million and did not adjust the wrongful death award. The court denied Scapa's motion for JNOV and its motion for production of Stewart's settlements and payments with all third-party tortfeasors. The court granted Scapa's motion for setoff and reduced the $1 million survival damages by $207,200 (20% of Stewart's prior settlement allocation) and the wrongful death award by $828,000 (80% of settlement allocation), which exceeded the jury's award for wrongful death. After applying the setoff rules, the trial court entered judgment against Scapa in the amount of $792,800, the amount remaining for Stewart's survival action. The court also refused to adjust Stewart's internal allocation of settlement proceeds. This appeal followed.


I. Did the trial court err in refusing to grant Scapa's motion for JNOV? II. Did the trial court err in granting Stewart's motion for new trial nisi additur?

III. Did the trial court err in refusing to reallocate Stewart's apportionment of settlement proceeds?

IV. Did the trial court err in refusing to admit claims Stewart submitted against bankrupt manufacturers of asbestos-containing products that Bowater used during Stewart's employment?




Scapa asserts the trial court abused its discretion in failing to grant its motion for JNOV because Stewart failed to prove specific causation between his workplace exposure to their dryer felts and his mesothelioma. Specifically, Scapa contends Stewart failed to meet the specific causation standard set forth in Henderson v. Allied Signal, Inc.[2] through scientifically reliable and relevant evidence because his experts (1) used the "cumulative dose" theory in formulating their opinions and (2) did not provide a specific amount of asbestos Stewart was exposed to from its dryer felts or the threshold exposure to asbestos above which he had an increased risk of developing mesothelioma. We disagree and affirm on this issue.

"A motion for a JNOV is 'merely a renewal of [a] directed verdict motion.'" Jolly v. Gen. Elec. Co., 435 S.C. 607, 623, 869 S.E.2d 819, 827 (Ct. App. 2021) (alteration in original) (quoting RFT Mgmt. Co. v. Tinsley & Adams L.L.P., 399 S.C. 322, 331, 732 S.E.2d 166, 171 (2012)), petition for cert. filed April 11, 2022. Appellate courts must follow the same standard as trial courts when ruling on a JNOV motion: courts must view the evidence and all inferences reasonably drawn from the evidence in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id. at 623, 869 S.E.2d at 827-28. "If more than one reasonable inference can be drawn or if the inferences to be drawn from the evidence are in doubt, the case should be submitted to the jury." Id. at 623, 869 S.E.2d at 828 (quoting Williams Carpet Contractors, Inc. v. Skelly, 400 S.C. 320, 325, 734...

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