The Appellate Division Affirms Summary Judgment In Hughes vs. A.W. Chesterton Company, et al

On April 23, 2014, the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court's decision to grant summary judgment in four consolidated cases (Hughes v. A.W. Chesterton Company, et al; Greever v. A.W. Chesterton Company, et al; Fayer v. A.W. Chesterton Company, et al; Mystrena v. A.W. Chesterton Company, et al).  Partner Steven F. Satz and Richard J. Mirra, Of Counsel, argued the case before the Appellate Division. Steven appeared before the trial court and Richard briefed the cases on appeal. Plaintiffs claimed injury due to alleged exposure to asbestos-containing replacement parts installed in the defendant Gould’s Pumps equipment. This decision is the first in New Jersey to address the issue of whether an equipment manufacturer may be liable for asbestos-containing components placed in a manufacturer's equipment years after the equipment was manufactured and sold. 

The case focused on the equipment manufacturer’s alleged liability for asbestos-containing replacement gaskets and packing installed or removed during routine maintenance over the life of the equipment. The trial court entered summary judgments on the plaintiffs' strict liability and negligence failure to warn claims based upon the absence of evidence that the asbestos-containing replacement parts were made or sold by the original equipment manufacturer. The Appellate Division addressed whether an original equipment manufacturer such as Gould’s Pumps had duty to warn as to replacement parts and what proofs are required to establish that the absence of a warning caused the claimant’s injury in light of New Jersey’s extensive products liability case law. The Court held that the manufacturer had duty to warn, but that the plaintiffs were required to establish that it had either manufactured or sold the asbestos-containing parts that caused their injuries. Summary judgment was appropriate in these cases because plaintiffs were unable to identify the source of the replacement parts in question and they failed to produce evidence that they were exposed to friable asbestos from replacement parts manufactured of sold by Goulds Pumps.