February 6, 2009
BRUCE JOHNSON, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF THORNTON JOHNSON
AMERICAN STANDARD, AMCHEM PRODUCTS, INC., A.W. CHESTERTON, INC., BENJAMIN FOSTER CO., BRAND INSULATIONS, BROWN BOVERI CORP., BURNHAM BOILER CORP., CERTAINTEED CORPORATION, CRANE CO., DEMMING DIVISION, CRANE PACKING, CROUSE-HINDS, CROWN CORK & SEAL, INC., DRESSER INDUSTRIES, INC., EASTERN GUNNITE CO., INC., GEOGIA-PACIFIC CORPORATION, GOULD PUMPS, INC., GREEN TWEED & COMPANY, INC., HAJOCA PLUMBING CO., INGERSOLL RAND CO., J.H. REFRACTORIES CO., METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE, NOSROC CORP., OWENS-ILLINOIS, INC., PECORA CORPORATION, RILEY STOKER CORPORATION, UNION CARBIDE CORP., WALTER B. GALLAGHER CO., WEIL MCLAIN CO., VIACOM/WESTINGHOUSE ELECTRIC CORPORATION, BONDEX INTERNATIONAL INC., CLEAVER BROOKS CO., DURABLA, DURAMETALLIC CORPORATION, GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY, GOODYEAR TIRE & RUBBER CO.,GOODYEAR CANADA, INC., HERCULES CHEMICAL CO., HERMAN GOLDNER COMPANY, IMO INDUSTRIES, INC., ITT CORPORATION, MELRATH GASKET, INC., PARS MANUFACTURING COMPANY, RITE HOSE & PACKING, INC., ROCKBESTOS COMPANY, MCMASTER CARR SUPPLY HOUSE
APPEAL OF: BRUCE JOHNSON
DOROTHY MAUGER, EXECUTRIX OF THE ESTATE OF RUSSELL MAUGER AND HER OWN RIGHT
A.W. CHESTERTON, INC., CERTAINTEED CORP., INC., CRANE CO., CRANE PACKING, CROWN CORK & SEAL CO., INC., DURABLA MANUFACTURING CO., FOSECO, INC., GARLOCK, INC., GEORGIA-PACIFIC CORP., GOODYEAR TIRE & RUBBER CO., GOODYEAR CANADA, INC., GOULDS PUMPS, INC., GREEN TWEED & CO., INC., HERCULES CHEMICAL CO., J.H. REFRACTORIES CO., METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE, NOSROC CORP., PECORA CORP., RAPID AMERICAN CORP., UNION CARBIDE CORP., VIACOM/WESTINGHOUSE ELECTRIC CORPORATION
APPEAL OF: DOROTHY MAUGER :
DOLORES STEA, ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF JOSEPH STEA AND IN HER OWN RIGHT
A.W. CHESTERTON, INC., CRANE CO., : DEMMING DIVISION, CROWN CORK & SEAL CO., INC., FOSTER WHEELER CORP., INC., GARLOCK, INC., GENERAL ELECTRIC CO., GOULDS PUMPS, INC., GREEN TWEED & CO., INC., MELRATH GASKET, INC., METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE, PECORA CORPORATION, RAPID AMERICAN CORP., BEVCO INDUSTRIES, WEIL MCLAIN CO., VIACOM/WESTINGHOUSE ELECTRIC CORP.
APPEAL OF: DOLORES STEA
Appeal from the Order entered on October 3, 2006, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Civil Division, at No. 3609, November Term, 2005. Appeal from the Order entered on October 3, 2006, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Civil Division, at No. 2154, November Term, 2004. Appeal from the Order entered on October 3, 2006, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Civil Division, at No. 1631, November Term, 2004.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lally-green, J.
BEFORE: FORD ELLIOTT, P.J., STEVENS, MUSMANNO, ORIE MELVIN, LALLY-GREEN, KLEIN, GANTMAN, PANELLA, AND DONOHUE, JJ.
¶ 1 In these asbestos cases, Appellants Bruce Johnson, et al. appeal from the orders dated October 3, 2006, granting summary judgment to Appellee Crown Cork & Seal Co. ("Crown"). The trial court reasoned that Crown was insulated from liability by 15 Pa.C.S.A. § 1929.1 ("the Statute"). Appellants agree that the Statute, on its face, protects Crown. Appellants argue, however, that the Statute: (1) violates the dormant Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution; (2) violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the Pennsylvania Constitution; and (3) violates various enactment provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution. We conclude that Appellants lack standing to raise these constitutional challenges. Therefore, we affirm.
¶ 2 The factual and procedural history of the case may be simply stated as follows. Appellants are executors of the estates of three individuals who died of asbestos-related mesothelioma. Appellants sued Crown and numerous other defendants. All defendants other than Crown have settled. Crown filed motions for summary judgment in all three cases, arguing that the Statute protected Crown from liability. Appellants raised constitutional challenges to the Statute. The trial court rejected those challenges and granted summary judgment to Crown. These consolidated appeals followed.
¶ 3 Appellants raise one issue on appeal:
1. Did the lower court err in ruling that Crown Cork & Seal Company, Inc., was entitled to summary judgment?
Appellants' Brief at 5.*fn1
¶ 4 As noted above, Appellants argue that the trial court erred in applying the Statute to Crown, because the Statute is unconstitutional. Our standard of review is as follows:
Under the applicable standard, an appellate court may reverse a trial court's entry of summary judgment only where it finds that the trial court erred in concluding that the matter presented no genuine issue as to any material fact and that it is clear that the moving party was entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. As this inquiry involves solely questions of law, our standard of review is de novo.
Ieropoli v. AC&S Corp., 842 A.2d 919, 924 n.10 (Pa. 2004) (citations omitted).
Additionally, any party challenging the constitutionality of a statute must meet a heavy burden, for we presume legislation to be constitutional absent a demonstration that the statute clearly, palpably, and plainly violates the Constitution. As with any challenge to the constitutionality of a statutory amendment, our scope of review is plenary and our standard of review is de novo.
Konidaris v. Portnoff Law Assocs., 953 A.2d 1231, 1239 (Pa. 2008) (citations and quotation marks omitted).
¶ 5 Before addressing Appellant's claims, we will begin with a brief discussion of the Statute itself, and its effect on Crown and this litigation. The Statute limits the asbestos-related liability of Pennsylvania corporations when that liability arises from a merger or consolidation. In general, the Statute caps the successor corporation's asbestos-related liability at the fair market value of the prior company as of the time of the merger or consolidation. The statute reads, in relevant part, as follows:
§ 1929.1. Limitations on asbestos-related liabilities relating to certain mergers or consolidations.--(a) Limitation on successor asbestos-related liabilities.
(1) Except as further limited in paragraph (2) the cumulative successor asbestos-related liabilities of a domestic business corporation that was incorporated in this Commonwealth prior to May 1, 2001, shall be limited to the fair market value of the total assets of the transferor determined as of the time of the merger or consolidation, and such corporation shall have no responsibility for successor asbestos-related liabilities in excess of such limitation.
15 Pa.C.S.A. § 1929.1(a)(1) (effective December 17, 2001).*fn2
¶ 6 The effect of the Statute on Crown is undisputed. Crown is a bottle-cap and can manufacturer based in Pennsylvania. In November 1963, Crown purchased Mundet Cork Corporation. Mundet Cork operated a division that manufactured asbestos products. Crown never operated this division. Within 90 days of acquiring Mundet Cork, Crown sold the asbestos-related division.
¶ 7 Despite this fleeting involvement with asbestos, in the ensuing years Crown has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in asbestos-related claims. The value of those claims far exceeds the fair market value of Mundet Cork itself.
¶ 8 Under the plain language of the Statute, Crown is not liable for Appellants' claims because Crown has already paid out asbestos liabilities exceeding the fair market value of Mundet Cork. Because the last remaining defendant, Crown, has been granted summary judgment, the appeal is properly before us.
¶ 9 With that background in mind, we turn to Appellants' claims. First, Appellants argue that the Statute violates the dormant Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, Art. 1 § 8 cl. 3. "The dormant Commerce Clause prohibits economic protectionism -- that is, regulatory measures designed to benefit in-state economic interests by burdening out-of-state competitors." Office of Disciplinary Counsel v. Marcone, 855 A.2d 654, 666 (Pa. 2004), cert. denied, 543 U.S. 1151 (2005), quoting New Energy Co. of Indiana v. Limbach, 486 U.S. 269, 273 (1988). Appellants claim that the Statute is a prohibited form of economic protectionism, because it benefits Pennsylvania corporations at the expense of out-of-state corporations.
¶ 10 Before addressing this claim, we must address the threshold question of whether Appellants lack standing to raise a dormant Commerce Clause challenge. Crown notes that Appellants are individual plaintiffs, not out-of-state corporations; thus, Appellants are not aggrieved by any protectionistic effect that the Statute may have. Appellants counter that they are aggrieved by the Statute as a whole, because it extinguishes their claims against Crown. Appellants argue that as a result, they are entitled to raise any constitutional challenge to the Statute.
¶ 11 In Commonwealth v. Rose, 2008 PA Super 249, this Court recently addressed a party's standing to raise a dormant Commerce Clause claim. In that case, a criminal defendant raised a dormant Commerce Clause challenge to a criminal statute prohibiting unauthorized sexual communication with a minor. The defendant argued that the statute penalized an out-of-state resident who ...
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