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Alexander v. Honeywell International Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

December 13, 2017

JULIA C. ALEXANDER, et al., Plaintiff,
v.
HONEYWELL INTERNATIONAL, INC., et al., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DONALD C. NUGENT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant, Honeywell International, Inc.'s Motion For Summary Judgment Based on Lack of Product Identification. (ECF #55). Plaintiffs have filed an Opposition, and Defendant filed a Reply in support of its motion. (ECF # 59, 62). The issues are now fully briefed and the motions are ready for disposition.

         Facts[1]

         Plaintiff, Julia C. Alexander, was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in May of 2016. She alleges that she contracted this disease through exposure to the asbestos contained in Bendix brake products which were manufactured by the Defendant, Honeywell International, Inc. (“Honeywell”). She contends that she was exposed to asbestos containing dust when visiting her boyfriend/fiancé, Mr. Schweinberg, who worked as an automobile mechanic. Ms. Alexander testified that she visited him at work approximately two to three times a week, for four hours each visit, from 1987 through 1991. Throughout this period, Ms. Alexander alleges that she observed Mr. Schweinberg performed brake work on a variety of vehicles1 to 3 times a week.

         The garage where the brake work took place was only large enough to fit one van at a time. There was no ventilation system in the garage, and no vacuum system on the grinder. Ms. Alexander alleges that she was in close proximity to the work at all times, sitting less than five feet away from Mr. Schweinberg as he worked. She did not wear any protective clothing or breathing protection equipment.

         When working on brakes, Mr. Schweinberg would use a hammer to loosen dust and dirt, and blow the brakes with compressed air to clean them off for inspection. When changing brakes he use a grinder, and an air compressor to prepare the new brakes for installation. This work created dust with flying particles that came from the brakes. The dust was further spread when he would use the air compressor to clean off the floor after he finished a job.

         Ms. Alexander could not recall the make and model of any of the vehicles that Mr. Schweinberg serviced, could not estimate how many new brakes he installed during that period, and could not recall any markings or writing on the brakes he inspected or removed for replacement. She did testify, however, that Mr. Schweinberg only used Bendix brakes when working at this location. She was able to describe the Bendix brake box, and remembered some identifying language on the boxes. She also identified the Bendix brake box presented at her deposition as the same box she would see at Mr. Schweinberg's workplace. The box she identified indicates that theses Bendix brakes contained asbestos.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The burden of showing the absence of any such “genuine issue” rests with the moving party:

[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of ‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, ' which it believes demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (citing prior Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). A fact is “material” only if its resolution will affect the outcome of the lawsuit. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Determination of whether a factual issue is “genuine” requires consideration of the applicable evidentiary standards. The court will view the summary judgment motion in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

         Summary judgment should be granted if a party who bears the burden of proof at trial does not establish an essential element of their case. Tolton v. American Biodyne, Inc., 48 F.3d 937, 941 (6th Cir. 1995) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322). Accordingly, “[t]he mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff.” Copeland v. Machulis, 57 F.3d 476, 479 (6th Cir. 1995) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252). Moreover, if the evidence presented is “merely colorable” and not “significantly probative, ” the court may decide the legal issue and grant summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (citations omitted). In most civil cases involving summary judgment, the court must decide “whether reasonable jurors could find by a preponderance of the evidence that the [non-moving party] is entitled to a verdict.” Id. at 252. However, if the non-moving party faces a heightened burden of proof, such as clear and convincing evidence, it must show that it can produce evidence which, if believed, will meet the higher standard. Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1479 (6th Cir. 1989).

         Once the moving party has satisfied its burden of proof, the burden then shifts to the non-mover. The non-moving party may not simply rely on its pleadings, but must “produce evidence that results in a conflict of material fact to be solved by a jury.” Cox v. Kentucky Dep't of Transp., 53 F.3d 146, 149 (6th Cir. 1995). A party asserting that a fact is genuinely disputed must cite “to particular parts of materials in the record” or show “that the ...


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