Maryland Plaintiffs Bring Successful Appeal of Summary Judgment Order in Asbestos Case

Personal injury cases arising out of asbestos exposure have a long history in Maryland, and may involve specific legislation enacted to protect the victims.  In a September 19, 2018 case, the family members of the decedent filed a Maryland wrongful death suit against two companies, alleging that the decedent contracted mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos.  The circuit court granted the defendant’s request for summary judgment based on the statute of repose, and the plaintiffs filed an appeal.

The decedent had installed and serviced boilers manufactured by the defendants.  The plaintiffs alleged that the decedent was exposed to the asbestos-containing rope, gaskets, cement, and putty supplied with the boilers.  The defendants, however, testified that they did not manufacture any of the parts that were packaged with the boilers, and moved for summary judgment.  In their response to the defendants’ motion, the plaintiffs failed to address the argument regarding the statute of repose.  When the motion was granted, the plaintiffs asked the court to reconsider and provided additional evidence.  The court denied the motion, and the plaintiffs appealed.

Maryland’s statute of repose grants immunity for all persons who might otherwise be held liable for a defect in an improvement to real property that occurred more than twenty years from the date of the improvement.  There are, however, exclusions where the statute of repose does not apply to bar a cause of action.  The statute does not apply to personal injury and wrongful death actions against a manufacturer or supplier, where the injury or death results from exposure to asbestos dust or fibers emitted prior to or during installation of an asbestos-containing product to an improvement to real property.  In addition, it does not apply to claims for personal injury and wrongful death caused by asbestos or an asbestos-containing product, where the defendant is a manufacturer of a product that contains asbestos.

The appeals court noted that the issue of whether the defendants were a manufacturer of asbestos-containing products, and therefore not protected under the statute of repose, was not addressed by the lower court.  The court found that while the defendants did not manufacture the asbestos-containing parts, they were essential components of the boilers they manufactured.  The court also pointed to evidence that the defendants purchased asbestos cement for use in its boilers.

Concluding that there was a factual dispute based on conflicting evidence as to whether the boilers were products that contained asbestos, the appeals court ruled that it was improper for the lower court to deny reconsideration without examining the additional evidence.  The judgment was reversed and the case was therefore remanded for further proceedings.

At Foran & Foran, P.A., our experienced Maryland attorneys have represented many plaintiffs in personal injury and wrongful death cases.  If you are seeking legal guidance regarding an injury caused by negligence, we may be able to assist you.  Discuss your concerns with a qualified injury lawyer during a free consultation.  Schedule yours today by calling our office at (301) 441-2022 or submitting our website form.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Court of Appeals Holds Pipefitter May Sue Corporation Decades After Asbestos Exposure, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published May 18, 2018

Maryland Court of Special Appeals Rules Tobacco and Asbestos Defendants Can Be Joined in Wrongful Death Action, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published October 2, 2015