In Whiting v. CBS Corp., 83 Mass. App. Ct. 1113 (Mass. App. Ct. Feb. 14, 2013), plaintiff’s husband died from malignant mesothelioma allegedly developed as a result of his exposure to asbestos during service in the engine and boiler rooms aboard the U.S.S. Gaudalcanal between 1968 and 1972. The turbines and valves manufactured by defendants had been installed in the boiler room along with other pumps, valves and pipes which used gaskets, packing and insulation that contained asbestos. In 2008, plaintiff sued the turbine and valve manufacturers in Massachusetts Superior Court, alleging her husband’s mesothelioma was caused by exposure to their products and defendants had failed to warn of the products’ dangers. After the Superior Court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the ground that there was no evidence defendants’ products contained asbestos, plaintiff appealed.
The appeals court first noted that, to prove causation in an asbestos case, it is plaintiff’s principal burden to show that a defendant’s product contained asbestos and the victim was exposed to that asbestos. Here, the only evidence of decedent’s potential exposure to asbestos came from a shipmate, who testified at deposition that he could not recall decedent working on the turbines but that he “would have” removed and replaced asbestos gaskets and packing in defendant’s valves and other equipment. Other than the shipmate’s testimony, however, there was no direct evidence that defendant’s valves were in fact supplied with gaskets or packing at all, much less asbestos-containing gaskets or packing, and the turbines were supplied uninsulated, with any insulation being attached later by the United States Navy or its shipbuilder. In any event, any insulation originally installed on the turbines or valves would have been removed and replaced from unknown sources in two overhauls of the ship that occurred in the mid-1960s, years before decedent served on the ship. Finally, there was evidence that the engine and boiler rooms used valves made by as many as seven different manufacturers. Accordingly, because there was no evidence that asbestos products manufactured or sold by defendants contributed to decedent’s development of mesothelioma, the judgment for defendants was affirmed.