Sidley successfully represented General Electric Co. (GE) in a case in the high-profile product liability multidistrict litigation (MDL) involving occupational asbestos exposure. The Plaintiff alleged that he was exposed to asbestos while in the U.S. Navy between 1967 and 1980, serving on the USS Saratoga for which GE manufactured several steam turbines. On April 1, 2022, MDL Judge Eduardo Robreno of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted GE’s motion for summary judgment, which comes on the heels of a line of similar victories in this litigation.
The litigation involves key issues around standards under maritime law for the duty to warn regarding asbestos insulation that GE did not make, sell, or specify, but that was later applied to the Navy steam turbines by the shipyard pursuant to Navy specifications. Sidley had previously prevailed on summary judgment under the “bare metal” doctrine (the DeVries case), which held that manufacturers of Navy equipment had no duty to warn about after-applied asbestos insulation made and applied by others pursuant to Navy specifications. This outcome was appealed to the Third Circuit and later to the U.S. Supreme Court, resulting in a new standard in 2019. In granting summary judgment in the current case, MDL Judge Robreno held that under the new Supreme Court standard, GE owed no duty to warn about insulation later applied to the Navy steam turbines that it supplied, as there was no dispute that the turbines could function with non-asbestos insulation.
For three decades, Sidley has represented GE as national coordinating counsel and trial counsel in asbestos litigation, and over that time, we have assisted GE in obtaining dozens of summary judgments, dismissals, and trial victories extricating GE from numerous asbestos cases. The seminal DeVries case is on appeal for the third time to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, where GE also won summary judgment. That appeal is being handled by partner Paul Zidlicky and associate Alexandra Mushka (both in Washington, D.C.).
The Sidley team in this case was led by Chicago senior counsel Tim Kapshandy and included counsel John Heller and associate Matt Binder (both also in Chicago).