DAVIS et al.
JOHN CRANE, INC. DAVIS et al.
P. J., COOMER and MARKLE, JJ.
consolidated appeal, we consider whether Leisa Davis,
presented sufficient evidence to create an issue of fact that
her deceased husband, John F. Davis ("Davis"), was
exposed to asbestos-containing products manufactured by John
Crane, Inc. ("John Crane") and FMC Corporation
("FMC) during his employment at a fiberboard mill.
appeals proceed from the trial court's grant of summary
judgment in favor of John Crane and FMC in an
asbestos-related personal injury and wrongful death action.
In Case No. A19A1137, we conclude that the record raises
factual questions that preclude summary judgment, and we
therefore reverse the order of the trial court. In Case No.
A19A1138, finding no error, we affirm the trial court's
Summary judgment is proper when there is no genuine issue as
to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law. To win summary judgment, a
defendant need not produce any evidence but must only point
to an absence of evidence supporting at least one essential
element of the plaintiff's claim. Although the plaintiff
is entitled to the benefit of all reasonable inferences to be
drawn from the evidence, such inferences cannot be based on
mere conjecture or possibility or upon evidence which is too
uncertain or speculative. We review a grant of summary
judgment de novo.
(Citations and punctuation omitted.) Hoffman v. AC&S,
Inc., 248 Ga.App. 608, 610 (2) (548 S.E.2d 379) (2001).
viewed, the record reflects that Davis worked at the
Louisiana Pacific Corporation fiberboard mill
("Louisiana Pacific" or "the mill") in
Alabama from 1984 to 1998. He was initially hired as a
laborer, then became a boiler operator the following year,
and remained in that position for three to four years before
moving to another position. As a laborer, Davis swept up dust
and debris around the mill and assisted in the removal of
gaskets on the mill's boilers. As a boiler operator, he
installed and removed gaskets and packing material on the
boilers and related pumps and valves. He accomplished this
task by scraping and grinding off old gaskets and packing
material, and applying fresh material in its place. As a
result, dust was discharged that would pile up on Davis's
arms and body. In carrying out this task, Davis testified
that he used John Crane asbestos-containing gasket and
packing material, and that he replaced asbestos-containing
gasket and packing material on two boiler feedwater pumps
manufactured by Peerless Pumps ("Peerless"), a
business formerly owned by FMC.
was eventually promoted to maintenance supervisor, a position
he held until he terminated his employment with Louisiana
Pacific. As a maintenance man, Davis worked on all forms of
equipment throughout the plant, in addition to the boiler
area. In 2015, Davis was diagnosed with malignant
mesothelioma and died that same year.
before his death, Davis and Appellant filed their complaint,
naming twenty-two corporate entities as defendants,
bringing claims for negligence, negligent product liability,
loss of consortium, and punitive damages. Following
Davis's death, Appellant amended the complaint to remove
Davis as a plaintiff and to add a claim for wrongful death.
The parties agreed to bifurcate the issues before the trial
court and, at the time of the appeals, the case had not
proceeded beyond the issue of product identification, i.e.,
whether the products that allegedly caused Davis's
injuries were manufactured or supplied by a particular
defendant. See Hoffman, 248 Ga.App. at 610-611 (2);
Williams v. Flintkote Co., 256 Ga.App. 205, 206 (2)
(a) (568 S.E.2d 106) (2002).
Crane and FMC moved for summary judgment, arguing that
Appellant failed to establish proximate causation because she
did not show that Davis was exposed to their
asbestos-containing products during his employment at the
mill. The trial court granted summary judgment to both
defendants. These appeals followed.
her sole enumeration of error, Appellant contends that
summary judgment was improper because she met her burden by
showing her husband was exposed to asbestos-containing
products manufactured by John Crane while working at the
mill. We agree.
Georgia, product identification is a necessary element of an
asbestos tort claim. "[T]he threshold for every theory
is proof that an injured plaintiff was exposed to
asbestos-containing products for which the defendant is
responsible." Hoffman, 248 Ga.App. at 611 (2)
548 S.E.2d 379, 382 (2001), citing Blackston v. Shook
& Fletcher Insulation Co., 764 F.2d 1480, 1481 (11th
Cir. 1985). This rule coincides with the general requirement
that a plaintiff establish proximate causation as a necessary
element of a tort claim. See id. at 610 (2) ("unless the
manufacturer's defective product can be shown to be the
proximate cause of the injuries there can be no
recovery.") (citation and punctuation omitted). Thus,
[t]o survive summary judgment, the appellant needed to
present evidence that [John Crane's] asbestos-containing
product was used at [Louisiana Pacific] and that [Davis] was
in proximity to that product at the time it was being used. A
plaintiff may testify to this information from personal
knowledge; he may also meet this burden other ways, including
by offering the testimony of a co-worker who can identify the
plaintiff by name as having worked with or around a
particular defendant's asbestos-containing products.
(Citations and punctuation omitted.) Adamson v. Gen.
Elec. Co., 303 Ga.App. 741, 744 (3) (694 S.E.2d 363)
(2010); Hoffman, 248 Ga.App. at 610-611 (2).
support of her argument, Appellant points to Davis's
deposition testimony as well as that of two co-workers.
Importantly, Davis, himself, affirmed that he had used John
Crane asbestos packing material during his employment at the
Q: And during the time period that you worked at
Louisiana-Pacific, did you yourself have occasion to work
with different types of John Crane asbestos ...