Defendant Pneumo Abex LLC's Motion for Summary Judgment.
Honorable Calvin L. Scott, Jr. J.
Raymond Leathers ("Plaintiff"), claims that he was
exposed to asbestos from Defendant Pneumo Abex's
("Abex") products. Plaintiff worked as an
automotive mechanic from 1963 through the late 1960s. He
performed a minimum of four brake jobs per week, and he
testified that he used Abex brake parts. Plaintiff testified
that in 1963 he worked as an automotive mechanic at Oak Lawn
in Cranston, Rhode Island until 1965. At this job he
performed both brake and clutch work. He stated that he did
about four brake jobs per week. From 1965 through 1967 he
served a two-year enlistment in the army. He returned to
Rhode Island in 1967 and worked part time at Oak Lawn
performing both brake and clutch jobs. Plaintiff stopped
working at Oak Lawn at some point in the 1960s and began
working in construction. Plaintiff testified that he worked
with Bendix, Grizzly, and Abex products while at Oak Lawn.
Plaintiff contends that the process of removing and
installing Abex's asbestos products caused him to develop
mesothelioma. Plaintiff provided evidence demonstrating that
Abex manufactured asbestos-containing automotive friction
products from 1927 through 1987. Additionally, prior to the
1980s, "the vast majority of brake linings that Abex
sold for passenger car, light and heavy truck were
contends that throughout its manufacturing history, some, but
not all, of its friction products contained asbestos. Abex
also contends that it did not manufacture fully assembled
brake shoes which could be installed directly onto vehicles,
and Plaintiff testified that all the replacement brakes he
used during his career were fully assembled brakes.
Additionally, Abex argues that Plaintiff's only
identification of their product was through "an
impermissible leading question, " as Plaintiff did not
identify Abex as a product he recalled using initially.
Finally, Abex argues that even assuming Plaintiff worked with
an asbestos containing product manufactured by Abex,
Plaintiff is unable to prove causation under Rhode Island
seems to be some contention between the parties about the
causation standard in the state of Rhode Island. In
Sweredoski the Rhode Island Superior Court discussed
the different standards of causation. The Sweredoski
court determined that the "frequency, regularity,
proximity test is the proper standard of proving causation in
asbestos cases" in Rhode Island. The Court noted that
"this test comports with [their] Supreme Court's
general causation jurisprudence and fairly balances the
interests of plaintiffs and defendants." The
Sweredoski decision is a 2013 decision that does not
seem to have any negative treatment by other Rhode Island
courts. The Rhode Island Supreme Court has not established a
set standard for causation in the state, and the well
analyzed decision in Sweredoski lays out exactly why
the Superior Court of Rhode Island applied the frequency,
regularity, and proximity test. Based on these reasons this
Court will apply the test proffered in Sweredoski.
As part of this test, the court noted that "[i]n the
asbestos context, plaintiffs must present both product
identification and exposure evidence to satisfy the causation
element, " and the court decided to "apply the
'frequency, regularity, proximity test' as the proper
causation standard for asbestos cases." "To satisfy
the 'frequency, regularity, proximity' test,
plaintiffs must present evidence showing '(1) exposure to
a particular product; (2) on a regular basis; (3) over an
extended period of time; and (4) in proximity to where the
plaintiff actually worked." Additionally, "mere
proof that the plaintiff and a certain asbestos product are
at the same location at the same time, without more, does not
prove exposure to that product." The "plaintiff must
prove more than a casual or minimum connection with the
argues that Plaintiff only identifies Abex as a product
"through an impermissible leading question."
Looking at the video and discovery depositions, it does not
seem that the product identification was elicited through a
leading question. The line of questioning is as follows:
Q: And do you remember me submitting these questions to you
and you providing answers and signing that, the back page of
that, as your answers being true?
A: Yes, I do.
Q: Do you see - I'll direct your attention to Exhibit C
of that document. Do you have that in front of you?
That's the page I put-
A: Right here?
Q: Yes. A: Yes.
Q: You have that in front of you. Is that information you
supplied to my office about the products you used?
A: Yes, it is.
Q: And does that have a list of any products that you used in