Litchfield Cavo Obtains Summary Judgment in Indiana Asbestos Matter

Associate Phil Litchfield successfully argued a motion for summary judgment for his client in an asbestos case pending in Marion County, Indiana. The decision was notable because of Indiana’s very strict summary judgment standard, which requires a defendant to “affirmatively negate the plaintiff’s claims.”

We argued that because Plaintiff could not definitely offer evidence that he worked with our client’s product, summary judgment should be granted.

Plaintiff argued that our client’s supplying of component parts to other manufacturers, whose products were then used by Plaintiff, was enough to defeat summary judgment. Plaintiff argued that our client was relying on the “no evidence” standard used in federal and many other state courts, and that our client was unable to affirmatively negate Plaintiff’s allegation that he was exposed to asbestos from our client’s products. Plaintiffs suggested that the only way for a supplier like our client to obtain SJ was to establish that none of our client’s products would have ended up at the large manufacturing facility where Plaintiff worked. Practically speaking, this would be impossible for a supplier, like our client, who distributed its products to numerous well-known electrical manufacturing companies that did not keep sufficient recordkeeping for our client to establish this defense.

In response, we argued that Plaintiff’s failure to identify our client was the “affirmative negation” necessary under Indiana law and we noted the serious public policy implications of essentially precluding summary judgment for component part suppliers.

The judge ruled in our favor, and held that the Plaintiff’s failure to identify our client, and failure to designate any evidence suggesting our client provided component parts at the facility where Plaintiff worked, entitled our client to summary judgment. Of the nine defendants that filed contested summary judgment motions, only one other defendant prevailed on summary judgment.