North Carolina Federal Court Grants Summary Judgment to Defendants in Asbestos Case

Foster Wheeler and William Powell Company, two defendants in an asbestos case, were granted summary judgment by Judge Catherine C. Eagles in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.

The plaintiffs – Mr. Joseph Logan and Ms. Lois Logan, representing deceased mesothelioma victim Mr. Ralph Logan – alleged that the defendants were responsible for Mr. Ralph Logan’s development of the asbestos-related disease. However, despite the fact that both Foster Wheeler and William Powell Company were known manufacturers of products that sometimes contained asbestos, the court decided to grant the motion for summary judgment due to the plaintiffs’ inability to provide adequate evidence supporting their claims.

The plaintiffs ultimately relied on only one witness, Mr. Louis Pederson, a former co-worker of Mr. Ralph Logan, who testified that while working on boilers, Mr. Logan had been exposed to asbestos through contact with Foster Wheeler and William Powell gaskets, valves, and other equipment that contained the harmful toxin. Mr. Pederson’s testimony did not help the plaintiffs prove that the defendants were liable for Mr. Logan’s death, as there was no way for the details to be verified.

Elements of Mr. Pederson’s testimony were brought into question after the plaintiffs’ sole witness used some vague language. “Here, the evidence is circumstantial, indirect, and weak,” wrote Judge Eagles about the claim against William Powell. “Mr. Pederson did not usually work directly with Mr. Logan; Mr. Logan ‘would’ have been around asbestos dust ‘if’ he was present, and Mr. Logan’s work around Powell valves was ‘infrequent.’”

Regarding Mr. Pederson’s allegation that Mr. Logan was exposed to asbestos-containing products from Foster Wheeler, Judge Eagles said, “Absent additional evidence, this is insufficient to allow a fact-finder to infer that Mr. Logan was exposed to asbestos from a Foster Wheeler product.”

Had the plaintiffs provided concrete evidence, such as the specific boiler models that Mr. Logan worked on, the claim that the decedent had contracted his illness via exposure to the defendants’ products could have been proven. Instead, the motion for summary judgment was granted.

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