IN RE: ASBESTOS LITIGATION Limited to: ROBERT GRIFFIN
Submitted: August 25, 2014
Upon Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
A. Dale Bowers, Esquire, Kenneth L. Wan, Esquire, Law Office of A. Dale Bowers, P.A., Wilmington, Delaware Attorneys for Plaintiff.
Somers S. Price, Esquire, Daniel F. Wolcott, Jr., Esquire, James M. Kron, Esquire, Potter Anderson & Corroon LLP, Wilmington, Delaware Attorney for Defendant Union Pacific Railroad Company.
ERIC M. DAVIS JUDGE
This is a civil tort action. In this action, Plaintiff Kelli Griffin, as executor of the estate of Robert Griffin, alleges that, due to the wrongful conduct of Defendant Union Pacific Railroad Company ("Union Pacific") and Defendant Union Carbide Corporation ("UCC"), Mr. Griffin was exposed to asbestos and, as a result of that exposure, developed asbestos-related lung cancer.
Now before the Court is the Motion of Defendant Union Pacific Railroad Company for Judgment on the Pleadings (the "Motion"). In the Motion, Union Pacific contends that this action must be dismissed on the ground that the action violates the claim-splitting doctrine by impermissibly seeking recovery for the same asbestos exposure alleged and previously litigated against other defendants in a civil tort action filed on December 15, 2011 (the "2011 Action").
Ms. Griffin opposes the Motion, arguing that the claim-splitting doctrine is not applicable to the facts here. According to Ms. Griffin, the claim-splitting doctrine is intended to prevent a plaintiff from filing a cause of action arising out of the same facts against a defendant in different jurisdictions, such as federal and state courts. Ms. Griffin notes that neither Union Carbide nor UCC were defendants in the 2011 Action. Ms. Griffin then argues that the claim-splitting doctrine does not apply to the situation where the plaintiff does not assert claims against defendants in a second suit that were, or should have been, asserted in the first suit.
For the reasons set forth in this opinion, the Motion is DENIED.
Ms. Griffin alleges that Mr. Griffin developed lung cancer as a result of occupational exposure to asbestos-containing products from 1969 to 2009. On December 15, 2011, Mr. Griffin filed the 2011 Action. After Mr. Griffin's death, Ms. Griffin, who is the executor of Mr. Griffin's estate, was substituted in as the plaintiff in the 2011 Action. On January 31, 2014, Ms. Griffin filed the instant civil tort action (the "2014 Action"). Union Pacific and UCC are named defendants in the 2014 Action.
The 2011 Action does not arise out of one single transaction or incident. Instead, the 2011 Action relies on allegations that Mr. Griffin was exposed to asbestos fibers during (i) his employment from 1970 through 1999 and (ii) non-occupational projects, including, but not limited to, working on his personal automobiles. The 2011 Action alleges that Mr. Griffin was employed by Union Pacific from 1973 through 1999. The 2011 Action asserts five separate causes of action against twenty-four defendants. The 2011 Action does not contain any claims under 45 U.S.C. §56.
Ms. Griffin litigated the 2011 Action for over two years. According to Union Pacific, Ms. Griffin has settled with or dismissed all but one of the defendants in the 2011 Action. Moreover, Union Pacific contends that Ms. Griffin is negotiating a settlement with the remaining defendant in the 2011 Action. In the 2011 Action, Ms. Griffin alleged that Mr. Griffin was exposed to asbestos during his employment with Union Pacific in Oregon from 1973 to 1999 while working as a brakeman/conductor. ...