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Farmer v. Air and Liquid Systems Corp.

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Albany Division

March 28, 2018

MARY FARMER, individually as the Surviving Spouse of BOBBY LEE FARMER Deceased and in her capacity as the Executrix of the ESTATE of BOBBY LEE FARMER Deceased Plaintiff,
v.
AIR AND LIQUID SYSTEMS CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          LESLIE J. ABRAMS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         Before the Court are:

         (1) Defendant Fisher Controls Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 271);

         (2) Defendant Honeywell International Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 278); and

         (3) Defendant McWane Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 280). For the reasons set forth below:

         (1) Defendant Fisher Controls Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 271) is GRANTED;

         (2) Defendant Honeywell International Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 278) is GRANTED; and

         (3) Defendant McWane Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 280) is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, Mary Farmer, individually and as the surviving spouse of Bobby Lee Farmer, initiated this action in the Superior Court of Dougherty County, Georgia, on February 26, 2016. (Doc. 1 at 2.) On March 28, 2016, Defendants filed a Notice of Removal, invoking this Court's diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (Id.) With leave, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on December 22, 2016. (Doc. 135.) Therein, Plaintiff alleges, against twenty-five defendants, causes of action including: (1) Negligence; (2) Product Liability Negligence; (3) Loss of Consortium; (4) Punitive Damages; and (5) Wrongful Death. (Id.)

         On May 22, 2017, Defendant Fisher Controls Inc. (Fisher) filed its Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 271.) Plaintiff responded on July 25, 2017 (Doc. 331), and Fisher replied on August 1, 2017 (Doc. 333). On May 22, 2017, Defendant Honeywell International Inc. (Honeywell) filed its Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 278.) Plaintiff responded on June 12, 2017 (Doc. 296), and Honeywell replied on June 26, 2017 (Doc. 327). On May 22, 2017, Defendant McWane Inc. (McWane) filed its Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 280). Plaintiff responded on June 12, 2017 (Doc. 301), and McWane replied on June 26, 2017 (Doc. 325). As such, the Motions for Summary Judgment are ripe for review. See M.D. Ga. L.R. 7.3.1(A).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Summary Judgment

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 allows a party to move for summary judgment when the party contends that no genuine issue of material fact remains and the party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. “Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Maddox v. Stephens, 727 F.3d 1109, 1118 (11th Cir. 2013). “A genuine issue of material fact does not exist unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a reasonable jury to return a verdict in its favor.” Grimes v. Miami Dade Cty., 552 F. App'x 902, 904 (11th Cir. 2014).

         “An issue of fact is ‘material' if it is a legal element of the claim under the applicable substantive law which might affect the outcome of the case.” Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997). “It is ‘genuine' if the record taken as a whole could lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party.” Tipton v. Bergrohr GMBH-Siegen, 965 F.2d 994, 998 (11th Cir. 1992). On a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view all evidence and factual inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and determine whether that evidence could reasonably sustain a jury verdict in its favor. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Allen, 121 F.3d at 646.

         The movant bears the initial burden of showing, by reference to the record, that there is no genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323; Barreto v. Davie Marketplace, LLC, 331 F. App'x 672, 673 (11th Cir. 2009). The movant can meet this burden by presenting evidence showing that there is no genuine dispute of material fact or by demonstrating that the nonmoving party has failed to present evidence in support of some element of its case on which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-24; Barreto, 331 F. App'x at 673. Local Rule 56 further requires that “documents and other record materials relied upon by [the moving party] be clearly identified for the court.” M.D. Ga. L.R. 56. “Material facts not supported by specific citation to particular parts of materials in the record and statements in the form of issues or legal conclusions (rather than material facts) will not be considered by the court.” Id.

         “When that burden has been met, the burden shifts to the nonmovant . . . to go beyond the pleadings and to present competent evidence in the form of affidavits, answers to interrogatories, depositions, admissions and the like, designating specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial.” Lamar v. Wells Fargo Bank, 597 F. App'x 555, 556-57 (11th Cir. 2014) (internal citations omitted). “All material facts contained in the movant's statement which are not specifically controverted by specific citation to particular parts of materials in the record shall be deemed to have been admitted, unless otherwise inappropriate.” M.D. Ga. L.R. 56; see also Mason v. George, 24 F.Supp.3d 1254, 1260 (M.D. Ga. 2014).

         As the nonmovant facing a motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff was required to identify those material facts as to which she contends there exists a genuine dispute to be tried. The Local Rules require those responses to controvert statements of material facts in motions for summary judgment with “specific citation to particular parts of materials in the record.” See M.D. Ga. L.R. 56. Accordingly, as to all statements asserted by Defendants in their Motions that are supported by specific record citation, the Court deems them to be admitted where the responding party has not responded with a specific citation to the record.

         B. Georgia Negligence Law as Applied to Asbestos Cases

         The parties invoke this Court's diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (Doc. 1.) “[E]xcept in matters governed by the Federal Constitution or by Acts of Congress, the law to be applied in any diversity case is the law of the State.” Walker v. Armco Steel Corp., 446 U.S. 740, 745 (1980). “Under Georgia law, [w]hether proceeding under a strict liability or a negligence theory, ‘proximate cause' is a necessary element of [a product liability] case.” Hoffman v. AC&S, Inc., 248 Ga.App. 608, 610-11 (2001) (quotations and citations omitted). “Thus . . . to survive summary judgment, an asbestos victim must present evidence that he or she was exposed to asbestos-containing products for which the defendant is responsible.” Thurmon v. Georgia Pac., LLC, 650 F. App'x 752, 757 (11th Cir. 2016). “Such evidence may include [t]estimony of co-workers who can identify a plaintiff by name as having worked with or around a particular defendant's asbestos-containing products.” Hoffman, 248 Ga.App. at 611. “Georgia law requires plaintiffs to prove exposure to a particular defendant's product in order to establish proximate cause because Georgia courts have refused to impose market-share or industry-wide liability upon asbestos manufacturers.” Thurmon, 650 F. App'x at 757 (citing O.C.G.A. § 51-1-11(d)).

         FACTUAL ...


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