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In re Asbestos Litigation

United States District Court, D. Delaware

January 25, 2018



          Sherry R. Fallon, United States Magistrate Judge


         Presently before the court in this asbestos-related personal injury action are the motions for summary judgment of Defendants Union Carbide Corporation ("Union Carbide"), Curtiss-Wright Corporation ("Curtiss-Wright"), Pfizer, Inc. ("Pfizer"), Honeywell International, Inc.[1]("Honeywell"), and United Technologies Corporation[2] ("UTC"), as well as Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company's ("Goodyear") (collectively, "Defendants") motion for partial summary judgment. (D.1.108; D.I. 110; D.I. 112; D.I. 114; D.I. 120; D.I. 122)[3] Plaintiffs John DeCastro ("Plaintiff or "Mr. DeCastro") and Vicki DeCastro, his wife (collectively, "Plaintiffs"), did not respond to these motions. As indicated in the chart infra and for the reasons that follow, the court recommends GRANTING Defendants' motions for summary judgment and partial summary judgment, respectively.


Motion for Summary Judgment

Union Carbide Corporation


Curtiss-Wright Corporation


Pfizer, Inc.


Honeywell International, Inc.


United Technologies Corporation


Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company



         A. Procedural History

         On September 1, 2016, Plaintiffs originally filed this personal injury action against multiple defendants in the Superior Court of Delaware, asserting claims arising from Mr. DeCastro's alleged harmful exposure to asbestos. (D.I. 1, Ex. 1) On October 14, 2016, the case was removed to this court by Defendant UTC pursuant to 28 U.S.C §§ 1442(a)(1), the federal officer removal statue, [4] and 1446. (D.I. 1) Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint on May 24, 2017. (D.I. 72) Union Carbide, Curtiss-Wright, Pfizer, Honeywell, and UTC filed the pending motions for summary judgment, individually. (D.L 108; D.I. 110; D.I. 112; D.I. 114; D.I. 120) Goodyear filed the pending motion for partial summary judgment individually.[5] (D.I D.I. 122) Plaintiffs did not respond to these motions. On November 20, 2017, Defendants sent a joint letter to the court seeking dismissal for Plaintiffs' failure to oppose any of their respective summary judgment motions. (D.I. 128)

         B. Facts

          1. Plaintiff's Alleged Exposure History

          Plaintiffs allege that Mr. DeCastro developed lung cancer as a result of exposure to asbestos-containing materials during his service in the United States Air Force, as well as from his civilian employment with Pacific Bell Telephone and United Airlines, and personal automotive and aircraft maintenance work. (D.I. 72 at ¶¶ 3-6, 14) Plaintiffs contend that Mr. DeCastro was injured due to exposure to asbestos-containing products that Defendants manufactured, sold, distributed, licensed, or installed. (Id. at ¶ 9) Accordingly, Plaintiffs assert claims for negligence, willful and wanton conduct, strict liability, and loss of consortium. (Id. at 6-13)

         Mr. DeCastro was deposed on February 21 and 22, 2017. (D.I. 37) Plaintiffs did not produce any other fact or product identification witnesses for deposition.[6] Plaintiff began his professional career in 1948 when he worked for Pacific Bell Telephone as a "frameman." (D.I. 121, Ex. E at 11:23-12:5) As a "frameman, " Plaintiff had to work with the telephone frames and wiring that provided telephone services to customers. (Id. at 110:1-111:10) Plaintiff did not, however, perform any work to any of the electrical panels. (Id. at 244:1-4)

         Two years later, in 1950, Plaintiff joined the United States Air Force where he served for forty years. (Id. at 14:15-19) Throughout his time in the Air Force, he held the duties of aircraft mechanic, aircraft foreman, and aircraft superintendent. (Id. at 14:20-24) After first attending basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, Plaintiff went to Shepard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, to attend aircraft and engine school. (Id. at 120:20-23; 122:10-24)

         Plaintiff reported to Williams Air Force Base ("Williams") in Chandler, Arizona, from 1951 to 1952. (Id. at 124:13-17) At Williams, Plaintiff performed maintenance, including brake work, on Lockheed F-80 aircraft ("F-80"). (Id. at 16:19-17:10; 18:9-11) After Williams, Plaintiff was stationed at Laredo Air Force Base ("Laredo") in Laredo, Texas, from 1951 to 1954. (Id. at 24:20-25) At Laredo, Plaintiff performed maintenance, including brake work, on Lockheed T-33 aircraft ("T-33"). (Id. at 25:4-21) In 1954, Plaintiff was briefly discharged from the Air Force. (Id. at 28:16-21) At this time, Plaintiff returned to San Francisco, California, and went to work for United Airlines for about six months. (Id.) There, Plaintiff worked as an aircraft mechanic, but did not perform any brake work. (Id. at 29:1 -4)

         Plaintiff began civil service at Hamilton Air Force Base ("Hamilton") in late 1954 until 1968. (Id. at 29:24-30:3) During his tenure at Hamilton, Plaintiff worked on a number of different aircraft such as P-51 Mustangs, F-8Os, F-84s, Curtiss-Wright C-46s (C-46"), and Fairchild C-l 19s ("C-l 19"). (Id. at 30:16-31:15) As an aircraft mechanic, he performed the same repairs and brake work at Hamilton as he performed at Williams and Laredo. (Id. at 32:1-7) Plaintiff was called for active duty at Hamilton for eighteen months, beginning in 1968. (Id. at 39:13-20) While on active duty, Plaintiff served in England and Vietnam. (Id. at 150:21-6)

         After active duty, Plaintiff went to Travis Air Force Base ("Travis") in 1970, where he remained until he retired in 1990. (Id. at 161:24-162:9) His job title when he first arrived in Travis was aircraft mechanic, but he was later promoted to aircraft foreman, and eventually superintendent. (Id. at 39:21-40:4) At Travis, Plaintiff worked on Lockheed C-141s Starlifters ("C-141"). (Id. at 40:5-6)

         Plaintiff resumed working for United Airlines from 1986 to 1996 as an aircraft mechanic and hydraulic specialist. (Id. at 180:9-13) He did not perform any brake work while working for United Airlines, but worked close to the brake shop. (Id. at 181:10-13) Plaintiff was not aware of the manufacturer of any brakes the mechanics installed or removed at United Airlines. (Id. at 181:14-182:2)

         Finally, Plaintiff testified that he personally owned a 1963 Cessna 172, Cessna 150, and an Ercoupe aircraft. (Id. at 44:14-45:1; 187:19-24) He performed maintenance and repair work on the aircraft, including brake work. (Id. at 45:13-46:1) In addition to performing maintenance work on his personal aircraft, Plaintiff also performed repairs and brake work on his numerous personal vehicles. (Id. at 48:1-49:10)

         2. Plaintiffs Product Identification Evidence

         a. Union Carbide Corporation

         Plaintiff did not identify an asbestos-containing Union Carbide product. (See D.I. 121, Ex. E)

         b. Curtiss-Wright Corporation

         Plaintiff recalled working on Curtiss-Wright C-46 aircraft while stationed at Hamilton. (D.I. Ill. Ex. A at 297:4-15) He was a crew chief for one C-46 aircraft, but performed work on all twelve that were "on the field." (Id. at 298:5-11) Plaintiff was personally responsible for "maintaining the aircraft, " performing work such as refueling, and changing oil and hydraulic fluid. (Id. at 298:15-21) He did not remember doing any brake work on any of the C-46s. (Id. at 298:12-14)

         c. Pfizer, Inc.

         Plaintiff did not identify an asbestos-containing Pfizer product. (See D.I. 121, Ex. E)

         d. Honeywell ...

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