Summary Judgment Granted in Iowa
On October 1, 2019, Sinars Slowikowski Tomaska obtained an order granting summary judgment on a newer Iowa statute that may have significant impact on any claim filed in, or arising from, a site in Iowa.
In 2017, the Iowa General Assembly adopted and the Governor signed into law Iowa Code Chapters 686A and 686B. The relevant section states, “A defendant in an asbestos action or silica action shall not be liable for exposures from a product or component part made or sold by a third party.”
District 7 (Davenport) Judge Patrick McElyea issued the opinion on the insulation contractor defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment in the Estate of Charles Beverage case. Senior Associate Kevin Horan argued on behalf of the insulation contractor.
The Court observed that no Iowa appellate court has interpreted Iowa Code Section 686B.7(5). Furthermore, no valuable legislative history is available. Indeed, only one other district court has interpreted the statute. The opinion in that case, Fankhauser et al. v. Borg-Warner Morse Tec, Inc. et al., No LACL140972 (Polk County, Aug. 14, 2019), was persuasive to Judge McElyea. The Court looked at the plain meaning of the statute and broke down the separate terms “product or component part” and “made or sold by a third party.” He noted “the products at issue in this case involve asbestos insulation used at the [premise owner's] plant” and stated that there was no factual dispute that the Beverage case alleged exposures from these products or component parts that were supplied and/or installed by this insulation contractor.
More specifically, the central issue for the Court was whether the asbestos-containing insulation used at the premise and any component parts were “made or sold by a third party.” The court noted that the premise defendant never manufactured or produced an asbestos-containing product or component part, and certainly never sold any component part or product. In this case, the evidence showed that the premise defendant was a consumer of asbestos insulation provided by a third party (the insulation contractor). As to the insulation contractor, the Court found that the record was clear that it sold products containing asbestos. However, the record was also clear that the insulation contractor purchased these asbestos products from other sources, specifically, Johns Manville and Eagle-Picher. Assuming all facts in favor of Plaintiffs’, the Court found that any asbestos containing products the insulation contractor installed at the premise or sold to the premise were products or component parts made or sold by third parties such as Johns Manville and Eagle-Picher.
Despite stated sympathy for Plaintiffs’ interpretation of the statute, the Court ultimately found that the legislature may have intended asbestos litigation to focus on the actual producers of products containing asbestos rather than entities who purchase it or install it.
Plaintiffs are appealing the ruling. For additional information, please contact Doug Sinars or Kevin Horan.