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Paquin v. Crane Co.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 31, 2017

PAUL PAQUIN, Plaintiff,
CRANE CO. indivudually and/or as parent, alter ego and/or succesor-in-interest to CHAPMAN VALVE COMPANY, COCHRANE CORP., CHEMPUMP, CRANE SUPPLY, CRANE PUMPS AND SYSTEMSN, INC. and/or JENKINS VALVES; CBS CORPORATION f/k/a VIACOM INC., successor-by-merger with CBS CORPORATION f/k/a WESTINGHOUSE ELECTRIC CORPORATION; AIR & LIQUID SYSTEMS CORPORATION as successor-by-merger to BUFFALO PUMPS, INC.; FOSTER WHEELER, LLC; and VIAD CORP. individually and/or successor-in-interest to THE GRISCOM RUSSELL COMPANY Defendants.


          Alvin W. Thompson United States District Judge.

         For the reasons set forth below, Crane Co.'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 72) is hereby DENIED, CBS Corporation's Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 Summary Judgment Motion (Doc. No. 78) is hereby DENIED, and Defendant Foster Wheeler LLC's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 75) is hereby GRANTED.

         Legal Standard

         A motion for summary judgment may not be granted unless the court determines that there is no genuine issue of material fact to be tried and that the facts as to which there is no such issue warrant judgment for the moving party as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., 22 F.3d 1219, 1223 (2d Cir. 1994). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court may not try issues of fact, but must leave those issues to the jury. See, e.g., Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Donahue v. Windsor Locks Bd. of Fire Comm'rs, 834 F.2d 54, 58 (2d Cir. 1987).

         When reviewing the evidence on a motion for summary judgment, the court must “assess the record in the light most favorable to the non-movant and . . . draw all reasonable inferences in its favor.” Weinstock v. Columbia Univ., 224 F.3d 33, 41 (2d Cir. 2000)(quoting Delaware & Hudson Ry. Co. v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 902 F.2d 174, 177 (2d Cir. 1990)).

         Applicable Law

         The parties dispute whether this matter is governed by federal maritime law or Connecticut state law. The defendants contend that federal maritime jurisdiction exists over the plaintiff's tort claim because the harm satisfies the “location” and “nexus” tests the Supreme Court set forth in Grubart, Inc. v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., 513 U.S. 527 (1995). The plaintiff argues that the defendants satisfy neither test under Grubart and that Connecticut's Product Liability Act applies instead. The court does not need to resolve whether federal maritime law or Connecticut state law applies because its analysis is the same under either standard.

         Under the Connecticut Product Liability Act (“CPLA”), a product liability claim includes claims based on harm caused by the “manufacture, construction, design, formula, preparation, assembly, installation, testing, warnings, instructions, marketing, packaging or labeling of any product.” Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 52-572m. “The CPLA is the exclusive remedy for any product defect action brought under Connecticut law, and it includes all actions related to the defect itself and to defects related to placing a product ‘into the stream of commerce.'” Bray v. Ingersoll-Rand Co., No. 3:13-CV-1561 SRU, 2015 WL 728515, at *4 (D. Conn. Feb. 19, 2015) (internal citations omitted). In Izzarelli v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., the Connecticut Supreme Court laid out the elements of a product liability claim as follows:

“(1) the defendant was engaged in the business of selling the product; (2) the product was in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the consumer or user; (3) the defect caused the injury for which compensation was sought; (4) the defect existed at the time of the sale; and (5) the product was expected to and did reach the consumer without substantial change in condition.”

321 Conn. 172, 184-85 (2016). While a product seller is exempted from liability to the extent “his product was altered or modified by a third party, ” this exemption does not apply if “the alteration or modification was the result of conduct that reasonably should have been anticipated by the product seller.” § 52-572p.

         Under federal maritime law, a plaintiff in a product liability case must show, with respect to each defendant, that “‘(1) he was exposed to the defendant's product, and (2) the product was a substantial factor in causing the injury he suffered, ' and (3) that the defendant manufactured or distributed the injurious product.” Bray, 2015 WL 728515, at *4 (citing Lindstrom v. A-C Liab. Trust, 424 F.3d 488, 492 (6th Cir.2005)). “In order to demonstrate that the allegedly defective product was a ‘substantial factor' in causing the plaintiff's injury, a plaintiff must show that it is ‘more likely than not' that exposure to the product caused his injuries.” Id. (citing Ruiz v. Victory Props., LLC, 315 Conn. 320, 324 (2015)). Moreover, the alleged harm must be “of the same general nature as the foreseeable risk” posed by the defective product. Ruiz, 315 Conn. at 324. “[A] mere showing that defendant's product was present somewhere at plaintiff's place of work is insufficient. Rather, where a plaintiff relies on proof of exposure to establish that a product was a substantial factor in causing injury, the plaintiff must show a high enough level of exposure that an inference that the asbestos was a substantial factor in the injury is more than conjectural.” Perkins v. Air & Liquid Sys. Corp., No. 13 CIV. 8561 CM, 2015 WL 4610671, at *6 (S.D.N.Y. July 30, 2015) (citing Lindstrom 424 F.3d at 492).

         Under the CPLA or general maritime law, the plaintiff “must demonstrate that the defendants manufactured or distributed a defective product, that the defect existed at the time [the plaintiff] utilized the product, that [the plaintiff] was exposed to that defective product without adequate warning or protection, and that exposure to the defective product caused [his injury].” Bray, 2015 WL 728515, at *4. The plaintiff may demonstrate these facts through reliance on circumstantial evidence. See O'Brien v. Nat'l Gypsum Co., 944 F.2d 69, 72 (2d Cir. 1991) (“[I]t is beyond any doubt that circumstantial evidence alone may suffice to prove adjudicative facts.”).

         Crane and CBS

         Crane Co. (“Crane”) argues that “Plaintiff has produced no evidence to establish that Mr. Paquin was exposed to any allegedly[ ]defective Crane Co. product.” Def. Crane's Mem. 9 (Doc. No. 73). Crane argues further that, in any event, the plaintiff “cannot establish that his alleged exposure to any Crane Co. asbestos ...

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