ST. LOUIS — A defendant in asbestos litigation has been granted summary judgment in its argument that a Massachusetts court had already ruled in its favor on the same plaintiff's claim.
U.S. District Judge Jean Hamilton on Sept. 11 ruled for Air & Liquid Systems Corp., successor to Buffalo Pumps Inc., in a case brought by Diane MacCormack, Nancy Broudy and Karen Loftus on behalf of Berj Hovsepian, who is deceased.
The plainiffs had claimed Hovsepian was diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of alleged asbestos in the defendant's products, according to background information in the ruling.
In the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Air & Liquid Systems moved for summary judgment based on the doctrine of collateral estoppel, which means that once an issue has been decided by a court, it cannot be relitigated.
According to the ruling, Hovsepian had bought a claim against Buffalo Pumps in Massachusetts, but when he failed to respond to Buffalo's argument that the plaintiff did not provide any evidence that he worked with or around its products, a court granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment in 2012.
Hovsepian then individually filed another suit in St. Louis Circuit Court in 2015 against Buffalo and other defendants, asserting claims similar to those in Massachusetts. The case was removed to federal court.
The order notes that the court had previously dismissed Hovsepian's claims against defendants BW/IP Inc., Crane Co. and Warren Pumps LLC on nearly identical grounds as brought by Air & Liquid Systems-Buffalo.
In July, Air & Liquid Systems-Buffalo moved for summary judgment, claiming Hovsepian's claims are barred by collateral estoppel.
The plaintiffs, in response, argued that collateral estoppel did not apply in their case because there was no final judgment on the merits in the previous litigation, the issue was not actually litigated, the issue decided in the prior adjudication is not identical with the one presented here and fairness considerations prohibit the “rigid application” of the collateral estoppel doctrine here, the ruling states.
Regarding plaintiffs' argument that there was no final judgment on the merits of the previous litigation, Hamilton was not persuaded.
"Plaintiffs’ first argument is unavailing, as 'issue preclusion is premised on a party’s prior opportunity to litigate an issue, not on whether the party made the best use of that opportunity,'” Hamilton wrote.