U.S. District Judge Staci M. Yandle has denied dismissal for Crane Co. in a lung cancer asbestos action, concluding that the plaintiff’s list of job sites and years was enough to establish Crane Co. as a defendant.
“Here, plaintiff has provided specific locations, specific states, and specific time periods allowing defendants ample notice of plaintiff’s claims and the grounds for said claims,” Yandle wrote in her April 16 order out of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.
In his complaint, plaintiff Steven Watts claims he developed lung cancer as a result of exposure to asbestos fibers from 1969 to 1975. He alleges both occupational and bystander asbestos exposure during those years.
More specifically, Watts alleges the exposures occurred between 1969 and 1970 while he worked as a warehouse worker at Coca Cola in Olathe, Kan., between 1970 and 1973 while he worked as a repairman/seaman in the U.S. Navy in Long Beach, Ca., between 1974 and 1975 while he worked aboard the USS Hector and the USS Surf Bird, in 1974 while he worked as an electrician at Kraco Electronics in Compton, Calif, and between 1974 and 1975 while he worked as a warehouse worker for the City of Santa Anna, Calif.
Watts alleges that exposure to Crane’s products caused him to develop lung cancer.
He claims Crane Co. knew or should have known that the asbestos contained in its unspecified products had toxic health effects. He also accuses Crane Co. of failing to exercise ordinary care for the safety of the plaintiff and claims exposure to Crane Co.’s products caused the plaintiff’s lung cancer.
Crane Co. filed a motion to dismiss Count I (negligence) and Count II (willful and wanton misconduct) on March 19, 2014, through attorney Benjamin Wilson of HeplerBroom. It argues that the allegations against it fail to state a cause of action upon which relief could be granted.
“More precisely, defendant argues that plaintiff does not specify the times or locations of exposure specifically to Crane’s products,” Yandle explained.
In its motion, Crane Co. argues that the plaintiff makes vague, unspecified allegations against Crane Co. and the 43 other defendants named in the suit.
“Nowhere does the complaint indicate the times or locations of exposure specifically to Crane Co.’s products, if any, or what those products were,” the motion states. “Without such information, the complaint does not describe its claims in sufficient detail to give Crane Co. fair notice of the claims or grounds upon which they rest.”
The defendant argues that the complaint is “so vague and ambiguous” that it cannot reasonably prepare responsive pleadings. It requested dismissal, or in the alternative, a more definitive statement.
Watts filed an opposition to Crane Co.’s motion through attorney Eric D. Jackstadt of Napoli, Bern, Ripka, Shkolnik & Associates on April 21, 2014.
“Defendant Crane Co. claims it cannot answer plaintiff’s complaint because it does not know what product is at issue. Asbestos is the product at issue. Defendant’s asbestos-containing products which it knows to be valves are at issue,” the opposition states. “As specifically as reflected herein, plaintiff alleges this defendant made and sold asbestos-containing products to the locations set forth in the complaint, that plaintiff was exposed to asbestos from those products during the time periods set forth in the complaint at said location and that his inhalation of asbestos fibers from defendant’s products caused him harm.”
During a motion hearing on June 13, 2014, Magistrate Judge Donald Wilkerson entered an order denying Crane’s motion for a more definitive statement.
“The motion is going to be denied at this time. It may be more appropriate later in the litigation, but I’m going to deny it at this time,” he said at the hearing.
The case was reassigned to Yandle on Aug. 26, and she made a final ruling on Crane Co.’s motion to dismiss.
Now, roughly one year after Crane Co. first filed its request for dismissal, Yandle concluded that Watts succeeded in pleading enough facts to state a claim that is plausible on its face.