In a recent case in the Los Angeles Superior Court, plaintiffs Kenneth and Dorothy Evans claimed that Mr. Evans developed asbestosis from exposure to asbestos when he supervised the demolition of a gas cooling tower over a several week period in the 1950’s. The tower had been built by Foley & Mansfield’s client, a general contractor.
During his deposition, Mr. Evans testified that the cooling tower materials consisted of redwood, copper bolts and nails, and copper pipes. He also recalled an exterior baffling which he described as made of some form of wood. However, later in the deposition he admitted that he did not know the materials that comprised the exterior baffling.
The defense team, led by Foley & Mansfield partner Thomas J. Tarkoff, filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that there was no evidence indicating that any portion of cooling tower had contained asbestos.
In opposition to the motion, plaintiff’s counsel supplied testimony from their expert, Charles Ay, who opined that the description of the baffling in the cooling tower led him to the conclusion that it contained asbestos, and that Mr. Evans was exposed to asbestos when the cooling tower was demolished. He based his opinion on the fact that he had inspected a number of cooling towers in the past, although he admitted that he had not inspected any built by this particular defendant.
The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment, ruling that plaintiffs had failed to present evidence that created a question of material fact that the materials in the cooling tower contained asbestos. Plaintiffs appealed, and the California Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s ruling. Specifically, the appellate court found that Mr. Ay’s testimony was insufficient to establish the necessary foundation that Mr. Evans was exposed to asbestos.