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Constantinides v. Alfa Laval

August 17, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, J.


MDL 875


Before the Court is the report and recommendation ("R&R") issued by Chief Magistrate Judge Thomas J. Rueter, and joined by Magistrate Judges David R. Strawbridge and Elizabeth T. Hey ("the Panel"), and defendant Crane Co.'s objections thereto. The Panel recommends that the Court deny Crane Co.'s motion for summary judgment.*fn1 Federal jurisdiction in this case is based on diversity of citizenship under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The issue before the Court revolves around product identification.


This case is part of MDL-875, the consolidated asbestos products liability multidistrict litigation pending in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The instant claims are based on failure to warn causes of action. (Compl. ¶5.) Plaintiff Peter Constantinides ("Mr. Constantinides") is the injured party in the instant case, and the injuries allegedly stem from his time as a serviceman in the U.S. Navy. Mr. Constantinides served aboard the U.S.S. Iowa from 1954-1956. (Suppl. Compl. ¶¶ 3-5.) Plaintiff alleges that Mr. Constantinides's diagnosed mesothelioma was contracted because of exposure to asbestos-containing products, including Crane Co. products, used aboard the U.S.S. Iowa. (Id.) Crane Co. moved for summary judgment relying solely on the argument that Plaintiff had failed to establish causation. Specifically, Crane Co. argued that Plaintiff had failed to establish that exposure to a Crane Co. product caused Mr. Constantinides's injuries. (Crane Co.'s Mot. Summ. J. at 2, 4-5. doc. no. 107.)

Crane Co. raises two specific objections to the R&R. (Crane Co. Objects., doc. no. 177, at 1.) First, it objects to the Panel's finding that Plaintiff advanced sufficient evidence of causation to avoid summary judgment. Specifically, with regard to this objection, Crane Co. states that "under either Florida or maritime law, Crane Co. is not liable for asbestos-containing products made or supplied by others that Crane Co. did not place into the stream of commerce." (Id.) Second, Crane Co. objects to the Panel's conclusion that Mr. Constantinides worked on valves, contending that this conclusion is not supported by the evidence. The Court overrules each of these objections, and adopts the Panel's R&R denying Crane Co.'s motion for summary judgment.


Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), "[a] judge of the Court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made. A judge of the Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." Id.

When evaluating a motion for summary judgment, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that the Court must grant judgment in favor of the moving party when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2). A fact is "material" if its existence or non-existence would affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue of fact is "genuine" when there is sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could find in favor of the non-moving party regarding the existence of that fact. Id. at 248-49. "In considering the evidence, the court should draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party." El v. SEPTA, 479 F.3d 232, 238 (3d Cir. 2007).

"Although the initial burden is on the summary judgment movant to show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, 'the burden on the moving party may be discharged by showing-that is, pointing out to the district court-that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case' when the nonmoving party bears the ultimate burden of proof." Conoshenti v. Pub. Serv. Elec. & Gas Co., 364 F.3d 135, 140 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Singletary v. Pa. Dep't of Corr., 266 F.3d 186, 192 n.2 (3d Cir. 2001)). Once the moving party has thus discharged its burden, the nonmoving party "may not rely merely on allegations or denials in its own pleading; rather, its response must--by affidavits or as otherwise provided in [Rule 56]--set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2).


Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 636(b)(1)(C), the Court must apply a de novo standard of review to the portions of the R&R that Crane Co. has objected to. Notably, Crane Co. has not objected to the applicable law that the Panel applied in reaching their recommendation. (See R&R, doc. no. 159, at 5.) The substance of Crane Co.'s objections is directed at the application of the law to the facts presented by Plaintiff. Therefore, the Court adopts the Panel's recitation of the applicable Florida law on ...

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