BHH Wins Partial Summary Judgment On Asbestos Personal Injury ClaimsSarah E. Hansen
Sarah E. Hansen, Esq., a partner at Burden, Hafner & Hansen, LLC, obtained a favorable Order granting partial summary judgment on a personal injury claim in an asbestos matter, paving the way for the case’s resolution. Plaintiff’s Complaint was initially filed while the Plaintiff’s Decedent was still alive but incapacitated, and asserted claims for personal injuries to the Decedent stemming from his alleged exposure to asbestos as part of his work as an elevator repairman working at a property claimed to have been owned and operated by the City of Buffalo and/or Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority (BMHA). The initial Complaint asserted claims sounding in negligence, premises liability, and claims under the New York State Labor Law against the City and BMHA only. The Decedent subsequently passed away, and after changing counsel, the Plaintiff, as executor of his estate, filed an Amended Complaint naming dozens of additional defendants, including two companies represented by Ms. Hansen, and asserted a claim for wrongful death.
Upon completion of discovery, Plaintiff refused to discontinue the case against Ms. Hansen’s clients, arguing that there was evidence of product identification by the Plaintiff, the Decedent’s son, who testified that when he was age 12-14, he would accompany his father on jobs, and saw the Decedent working with elevator components allegedly manufactured by Ms. Hansen’s clients. As one of the remaining defendants still in the case with a trial quick approaching, Ms. Hansen filed a Summary Judgment Motion on behalf of her clients, arguing that Plaintiff’s claims for personal injuries to the Decedent were time-barred since the action against her clients was not commenced until more than three years after the Decedent’s diagnosis with mesothelioma. The Plaintiff argued that the claims asserted in the amended Complaint “related back” to the initial Complaint and that the personal injury claims were timely.
The trial judge in the Erie County Supreme Court agreed with Ms. Hansen, finding that the “relation back” doctrine did not apply, as the moving defendants were not “united in interest” with the City or BHMA. The judge determined that the negligence, premises liability and Labor Law claims were untimely with respect to the moving defendants and granted partial summary judgment on the personal injury claims. This left only a wrongful death claim relating to a gentleman in his late 80s who had been suffering from dementia for several years before his death, significantly limiting the value of the Plaintiff’s claim and paving the way for the case to be resolved in advance of any trial.