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From Products Liability Law Daily, August 20, 2014

Crane sues Goodyear for indemnification in asbestos suit

By John W. Scanlan, J.D.

Crane Co., a manufacturer and seller of valves, has brought suit against The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (Goodyear), asking the court to require Goodyear to indemnify Crane for the damages apportioned to Crane in an asbestos-related lawsuit, as well as the costs of defending the suit (Crane Co. v. The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., August 19, 2014).

Background. William Paulus was a commercial plumber who died of mesothelioma. His estate brought a wrongful death and survival suit against a number of companies, including Crane Co., alleging that his illness was the result of exposure to their asbestos-containing products. The jury found in favor of the Paulus claimants and awarded them $398,635 in economic damages and $6.5 million in non-economic damages from 46 defendants. The jury determined that Crane was negligent and allocated it 10 percent of the fault, with a final judgment against it in the amount of $755,085. A California Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s denial of judgment notwithstanding the verdict and also denied Crane’s demand for further setoffs for settlements plaintiffs would be entitled to recover from various asbestos bankruptcy trusts, but which they had not yet sought. In June 2014, Crane paid $898,399.81 to fully satisfy the judgment.

Allegations. Crane asserted that from 1914 to 1969, Goodyear designed, manufactured, and sold asbestos-containing sheet gasket material in various sizes and thickness for numerous customers under different brand names. This material was normally 75 to 85 percent asbestos, Crane said. Beginning in 1919, Goodyear sold Crane a “small portion” of Cranite, an asbestos-containing sheet, and was the exclusive seller of Cranite to Crane from 1960 to 1969, after which Goodyear Canada sold a small portion of Cranite to Crane until the early 1970s, when Goodyear Canada stopped producing it and Crane discontinued it. Crane then began purchasing other sheet from other manufacturers. Cranite was used as a component part in some of its valves and was at times sold to certain customers as a replacement part for valves. According to Crane, it never designed or manufactured Cranite, asbestos-containing sheet, or any similar sheet material. Crane stated that it relied upon the expertise and experience of Goodyear and Goodyear Canada when it purchased the Cranite.

Relief sought. Crane sought contractual indemnity and comparative equitable indemnity from Goodyear. Crane said that it had entered into a series of contracts with Goodyear for the manufacture and sale of Cranite by Goodyear to Crane. It alleged that it had fully performed its duties under the contracts, but that Goodyear’s Cranite was not fit for the ordinary purpose for which it was used. Crane further asserted that in these contracts, Goodyear had expressly or implicitly agreed to manufacture and sell Cranite that was suitable for use as gasket material, but breached these warranties, and also implicitly promised to defend and indemnify Crane for any alleged defects in the Cranite.

The case number is 2:14-cv-6509.

Attorneys: Geoffrey M. Davis (K&L Gates LLP) for Crane Co.

Companies: Crane Co.; The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

MainStory: TopStory AsbestosNews DamagesNews DefensesLiabilityNews CaliforniaNews

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