Friday, December 27, 2013

Hardy v. Johns-Manville Sales Corporation case brief

Hardy v. Johns-Manville Sales Corporation case brief summary
681 F.2d 334 (5th Cir. 1982)

CASE SYNOPSIS
Defendants filed an interlocutory appeal under 28 U.S.C.S. § 1292(b) from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, which, based on the theories of res judicata and/or collateral estoppel, issued an omnibus order that precluded the introduction of evidence by either party on the issue of whether asbestos caused either asbestosis or mesothelioma.

CASE FACTS
Plaintiffs filed an action against defendants and alleged injury from exposure to products containing asbestos. The district court issued an omnibus order, which in effect was a partial summary judgment for plaintiff. Under the order no evidence could be introduced on the issue of whether asbestos caused either asbestosis or mesothelioma because of the collateral estoppel effect of a prior action involving some of the same defendants. Defendants filed an interlocutory appeal and challenged the order.

DISCUSSION

  • The court reversed, holding that the district court abused its discretion in applying collateral estoppel and judicial notice. 
  • The order failed to distinguish between those defendants who were parties in the prior action and those who were not; rather, under the order all defendants purportedly shared an identity of interests sufficient to constitute privity. 
  • Further, there was no evidence that defendants who were not involved in the prior action participated in that litigation. 
  • Finally, the court held that the prior action did not hold that asbestos products were unreasonably dangerous or that asbestos as a generic element was in all products a competent producing cause of cancer.

CONCLUSION
The court reversed the district court's omnibus order that precluded the introduction of evidence on whether asbestos caused cancer under the theory of collateral estoppel. The court held that the district court could not estop defendants who did not participate in the prior action nor could it estop defendants who participated in that action because that action did not stand for the proposition that asbestos products were a cause of cancer.

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