United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR JUDGMENT
AS A MATTER OF LAW
Honorable James L. Robart U.S. District Court Judge
the court are two post-trial motions: (1) Defendant DCo,
LLC's (f/k/a Dana Companies, LLC) (“DCo”)
motion for judgment as a matter of law (DCo Mot. (Dkt. #
816)); and (2) Defendant Ford Motor Company's
(“Ford”) motion for judgment as a matter of law
(Ford Mot. (Dkt. # 817)). Plaintiffs Leslie Jack and David
Jack (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) oppose both
motions. (See Resp. DCo (Dkt. # 822); Resp. Ford
(Dkt. # 824).) DCo and Ford (collectively,
“Defendants”) filed replies. (DCo Reply (Dkt. #
826); Ford Reply (Dkt. # 828).) The court has considered the
motions, the parties' submissions concerning the motions,
the relevant portions of the record, and the applicable law.
Being fully advised,  the court GRANTS DCo's and Ford's
motions for judgment as a matter of law for the reasons
court detailed the factual background of this case in its
summary judgment order. (See 9/17/18 Order (Dkt. #
706) at 3-19.) Here, the court recounts only those facts
relevant to the present motions, including the procedural
history, the evidence presented at trial, and the jury
case arises from decedent Patrick Jack's exposure to
asbestos-containing products through his work as an
automotive mechanic, a machinist in the Navy, and a machinist
and nuclear inspector at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard
(“the Shipyard”). (See, e.g., 10/1/18
Trial Tr. (Dkt. # 806) at 168:8-171:20.) After he developed
mesothelioma, Mr. Jack sued multiple companies that allegedly
supplied, manufactured, or sold asbestos-containing materials
and equipment to which he was exposed over the course of
several decades. (See 2d Am. Compl. (Dkt. # 253)
¶¶ 3-40.) In October 2017, Mr. Jack died of
mesothelioma. (Pl. Trial Br. (Dkt. # 726) at 1.) Mr.
Jack's wife, Ms. Jack, and Mr. Jack's son, David
Jack, proceeded as Plaintiffs. (See 2d Am. Compl. at
October 1, 2018, to October 12, 2018, Plaintiffs tried their
claims against DCo and Ford before a jury. (See
Trial Min. Entries (Dkt. ## 753, 757, 763, 764, 770, 774,
781, 784, 789); see also 10/1/18 Trial Tr.; 10/2/18
Trial Tr. (Dkt. # 807); 10/3/18 Trial Tr. (Dkt. # 808);
10/4/18 Trial Tr. (Dkt. # 809); 10/5/18 Trial Tr. (Dkt. #
810); 10/9/18 Trial Tr. (Dkt. # 811); 10/10/18 Trial Tr.
(Dkt. # 812); 10/11/18 Trial Tr. (Dkt. # 813).) Plaintiffs
asserted three theories of liability against each Defendant:
(1) negligence; (2) strict liability for failure to design
reasonably safe products (“strict liability design
defect claims”); and (3) strict liability for failure
to warn of unsafe conditions in their products (“strict
liability failure-to-warn claims”). (See Pl.
Trial Br. at 6-12.) After Plaintiffs rested their case, DCo
and Ford made oral motions for judgment as a matter of law.
(See 10/10/18 Trial Min. Entry; 10/10/18 Trial Tr.
at 260:12-270:4); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a).
DCo and Ford renewed those motions after the jury rendered
its verdict. (See DCo Mot.; Ford Mot.); see
also Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b).
Evidence Presented at Trial
trial, Plaintiffs introduced evidence that Mr. Jack used
gaskets manufactured or sold by DCo and automotive brakes and
clutches sold by Ford. (See, e.g., 10/4/18 Trial Tr.
at 101:11-14, 168:10-13, 193:22-194:3, 201:10-25; see
also 10/11/18 Trial Tr. at 48:3-65:11.) Mr. Jack worked
as a professional mechanic from approximately 1962 to 1967.
(10/4/18 Trial Tr. at 192:16-193:8, 200:17-201:5, 202:10-12.)
He also performed automotive work on multiple personal
vehicles from 1955 until a few years before his death.
(Id. at 99:1-5, 100:6-7.) Plaintiffs attempted to
establish that the DCo and Ford products Mr. Jack used
contained asbestos, and that neither Defendant warned
consumers-either at the time of sale or later-about dangers
related to their asbestos-containing products. (See,
e.g., 10/2/18 Trial Tr. 150:24-151:2, 164:18-165:1;
10/5/18 Trial Tr. at 197:7-13.)
Carl Brodkin, Plaintiffs' expert, offered testimony on
the causal significance of Mr. Jack's exposure to
Defendants' products. In Dr. Brodkin's view,
mesothelioma results from “identified exposure[s],
” which require “a well-characterized source of
asbestos” and “an activity that disrupts the
source.” (10/9/18 Trial Tr. at 31:18-22.) Dr. Brodkin
opined that “Mr. Jack's work with
[DCo-attributable] gaskets [was] an identified
exposure” and “was a cause of his
mesothelioma.” (Id. at 59:12-17.) Dr. Brodkin
also opined that Mr. Jack's work with asbestos-containing
Ford clutches and brakes were identified exposures.
(Id. at 61:3-4, 11-16; see also Id. at
67:25-68:4.) In addition, Dr. Brodkin acknowledged that Mr.
Jack sustained causally significant asbestos exposure in the
Navy, from 1961 to 1962, and at the Shipyard, from 1967 to
1980. (Id. at 33:19-34:3, 96:7-99:21, 105:14-108:9.)
the presentation of evidence, the court instructed the jury
on the applicable law. (10/11/18 Trial Tr. at 24:17-46:16.)
The court explained that, with respect to both negligence and
strict liability, Plaintiffs were required to prove that
Defendants' conduct or products proximately caused Mr.
Jack's mesothelioma. (Final Jury Instr. (Dkt. # 786) No.
19.) Relying on Washington law, the court defined proximate
cause as “a cause that was a substantial factor in
bringing about the injury, even if the result would have
occurred without it.” (Id.); see Mavroudis
v. Pittsburgh-Corning Corp., 935 P.2d 684, 688-89
(Wash.Ct.App. 1997). The court also instructed the jury that,
with respect to Plaintiffs' negligence claims, “[a]
manufacturer of products is under a duty to use ordinary care
to test, analyze, and inspect the products it
manufactures.” (Final Jury Instr. No. 20.) In addition,
over Defendants' objections, the court allowed the jury
to consider whether either Defendant was negligent in failing
to uphold a duty to issue post-sale warnings about dangers
related to its products. (Id. No. 21; see
also 10/10/19 Trial Tr. at 223:22-224:25,
closing argument, Plaintiffs' counsel argued, among other
theories, that Defendants were negligent because they
breached their post-sale duties to warn of dangers associated
with their asbestos-containing products. Specifically,
counsel argued that Defendants failed to issue post-sale
warnings once they became aware of the dangers of asbestos
exposure and that their failure to issue such warnings was a
substantial factor in bringing about Mr. Jack's asbestos
exposure at the Shipyard. (10/11/18 Trial Tr. at 62:5-63:18.)
Specifically, counsel asserted:
Even if . . . you believe that it was 100 percent the
shipyard . . . the timeline before that happened is so
important. . . . [F]or seven years before [Mr. Jack] ever set
foot as an employee on Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, he was
working with these companies' products day in and day
And if they had put a warning on the box, if they had put a
skull and crossbones, if they had said, “This can kill
you. This can cause cancer. This can give you mesothelioma.
This can kill your family, ” during those seven years
before he ever went to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, if
they just told him once, maybe he would have put on a mask at
Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Maybe he would have avoided the
dust. Maybe he would have protected himself. Maybe he would
have gone and worked somewhere else. But he could have
minimized his exposure ...