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Hake v. Allied Fluid Products Corp. (2018)

September 11, 2018

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Horvitz & Levy helped our client secure a victory in a case that tested the ability of plaintiffs alleging asbestos exposure in other states to obtain recovery under California’s lower causation standards governing asbestos cases. 

The plaintiff sought to hold Honeywell International Inc. liable for his mesothelioma, which he claimed was caused by exposures to chrysotile fibers in brake products that Honeywell’s corporate predecessor manufactured. Those exposures allegedly occurred exclusively in Kansas when plaintiff was a Kansas resident. After the alleged exposures, plaintiff joined the Navy where he was exposed to amosite. Later, plaintiff moved to Washington, where he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Plaintiff filed suit in California against a dozen defendants, including Honeywell.

The trial court ruled that Kansas law governed the issue of causation. At trial, plaintiff’s causation expert testified that every asbestos exposure that plaintiff had during his lifetime increased his risk of disease and therefore was a cause of his disease. But unlike in California, a plaintiff in Kansas must show the defendant’s product was a substantial factor and a proximate cause in causing plaintiff’s injury, not just a factor in contributing to the risk of injury. The trial court granted nonsuit on the ground that the opinion testimony of plaintiff’s expert did not show causation under Kansas law.

Plaintiff appealed. Horvitz and Levy LLP represented Honeywell on appeal, arguing that Kansas law governed the issue of causation and that plaintiff’s “every exposure” theory did not satisfy the requirements of Kansas causation law. The First Appellate District, Division Four, agreed with our arguments and affirmed the trial court’s ruling in a unanimous opinion.