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Smith v. Advanced Auto Parts Inc.

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

December 30, 2013

CARLTON L. SMITH and LUCILLE SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
ADVANCED AUTO PARTS, INC., et al., Defendants.

Submitted: October 29, 2013

Upon Defendants Genuine Parts Company and National Automotive Parts Association's Motion for Summary Judgment GRANTED

Kara Hager, Esquire, Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik LLP, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for Plaintiffs.

Paul A. Bradley, Esquire, and Stephanie A. Fox, Esquire, Maron Marvel Bradley & Anderson LLC, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorneys for Defendants Genuine Parts Company and National Automotive Parts Association.

Eric M. Davis Judge

Introduction

This is a products liability action brought by Plaintiffs Carlton and Lucille Smith against multiple defendants including Defendants National Automotive Parts Association ("NAPA") and Genuine Parts Company ("GPC").

The Complaint alleges that Mr. Smith contracted lung cancer as a result of exposure to asbestos and asbestos-containing products. The Smiths contend Mr. Smith was exposed to certain asbestos-containing automotive parts he purchased from a NAPA store which were supplied by NAPA and GPC. Specifically, the Smiths claim Mr. Smith was exposed to asbestos-containing automotive parts including engines, gaskets, brakes and/or clutches while performing shadetree automotive work from 1966 to 2006. Also, the Smiths claim occupational exposure to Mr. Smith when he worked as a welder for Bakers Equipment from 1966 to 1968, while working as a laborer for Shipment Rittmen from 1968 to 1970 and while working as a welder for Stanley Smith & Sons from 1970 to 1995. In the complaint, the Smiths explicitly do not allege "any exposure to asbestos on or after December 1986."[1]

On or about June 3, 2013, NAPA and GPC filed a motion for summary judgment (the "Motion"). The Smiths filed an opposition to the Motion on June 24, 2013. NAPA and GPC replied to the Smith's opposition on July 8, 2013. On October 29, 2013, the Court held a hearing on the Motion and took the matter under advisement. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is GRANTED.

Factual Background[2]

NAPA is a trade association and does not actually own any automotive parts stores.[3]NAPA enters into licensing agreements with individual store owners, allowing the owners to sell NAPA parts and use the NAPA name and logo for advertising.[4] NAPA also allows its member stores to purchase NAPA parts through its distribution center.[5] Although independent retailers may sometimes put the name "NAPA" above their stores, these stores are only members of NAPA's trade association and are independently owned.[6]

GPC is a distributor of automotive parts. GPC buys products from other manufacturers and sells those products to members of NAPA through NAPA's distribution centers.[7] These parts either bear the NAPA name and colors, or the name of the original manufacturer.[8] For instance, brake pads distributed by GPC bore the name Rayloc before eventually switching to the NAPA logo and colors.[9] Likewise, gaskets distributed by GPC bore the name Victor originally, but eventually switched to the name NAPA.[10]

Although the individual stores that are NAPA members can distribute NAPA parts, they do not have exclusive contracts with NAPA and sell non-NAPA/GPC parts as well. [11] Also, some of the brands distributed by NAPA can also be sold through other distributors and manufacturers.[12]

Mr. Smith alleges he was exposed to asbestos from performing an estimated 40-50 brake jobs throughout his lifetime.[13] Further, Mr. Smith alleges that he purchased some of those brake products from a NAPA store. Throughout his deposition, Mr. Smith mentioned a store which he referred to as "NAPA, " "NAPA Standard Parts" and "Standard Parts." [14] In his deposition, Mr. Smith mentioned numerous times ...


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