Key aspects of an asbestos-exposure case presented genuine issues of material fact, rather than impermissible speculation, and made summary judgment inappropriate:

  • Potential exposure to airborne material. “[T]he MDL court accepted that Williams worked, for some amount of time, in a building that had asbestos, and expert testimony indicates the asbestos was deteriorating and becoming airborne during his tenure. An inference taken in favor of the non-moving party would be that Williams, who for some amount of time had to breathe in the spaces where asbestos was deteriorating, was exposed to this airborne asbestos. The MDL court, though, found that there was ‘no evidence that [Williams] was ever exposed to respirable asbestos dust at any location in the facility’” (the Court also noted expert testimony on this point);
  • Location at a key time. “[I]n a summary judgment order rendered that same day regarding another defendant, the MDL court relied on evidence that Williams saw individuals in moon suits to assume he was present during the asbestos remediation. Just the opposite seems to have been inferred here, as the MDL court in Boeing’s summary judgment order stated that there was ‘no evidence that [Williams] was working nearby (or in that building at all) when that remediation work was performed”;
  • Excluding alternative possible locations at the key time. “[T]he MDL court also found that the evidence that Williams primarily worked in Building 350 was not ‘sufficiently specific’ to allow a jury to conclude he was exposed to asbestos during an abatement project because ‘[t]he evidence that Decedent primarily worked in Building 350 does not exclude the possibility that he was not working there during the asbestos abatement project.’ Finding to the contrary, the MDL court found, ‘would be impermissibly speculative.’ We conclude that ‘speculation’ would not be involved, only a potentially reasonable inference.”

Williams v. Boeing Co., No. 18-31158 (Jan. 18, 2022).

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