Michael Benavidez was diagnosed with multiple asbestos-related diseases after years of working as a sheet metal worker. He filed suit against Fluor Corporation, accusing them of using asbestos-containing insulation, products and other building materials at an Anheuser-Busch facility in California where he had worked as a subcontractor in the 1970s. As a result of inconsistencies in testimony he provided at various times through the trial process, Fluor successfully moved for the case against them to be dismissed. But Benavidez appealed that decision to the Court of Appeals of California, which agreed that his testimony had created triable issues of material fact that a jury should decide.
Sheet Metal Worker Diagnosed with Asbestosis and Pleural Disease
Mr. Benavidez’s lawsuit accuses Fluor of negligence in their employees’ handling of asbestos-contaminated materials, claiming that they caused asbestos fibers to be released into the air that he breathed while working and resulting in his eventual development of asbestos-related diseases. Though Benavidez worked for another contractor, he worked in close proximity to Fluor’s pipefitters who were removing and replacing asbestos gaskets.
Inconsistent Testimony Resulted in Summary Judgment Being Granted in Initial Asbestos Claim
In response to Mr. Benavidez’ claim, Fluor’s attorneys sent him standard interrogatories. His answers detailed the work he performed in the 1970s in proximity to pipefitters who he recognized as Fluor employees based on their trucks. He described the work the pipefitters had performed and the dusty conditions that were created. He was later deposed twice, but the answers he provided were inconsistent with his initial testimony. He could not recall whether he had worked at the Anheuser-Busch facility in the 1970s or the 1980s. He also said that the Fluor workers had been electricians and that he had no idea who had employed the pipefitters he’d seen. He said that his recognition of the workers as Fluor employees was based on the emblem on their helmets, though he added that he saw Fluor trucks at the site on a daily basis. He also testified that he was certain that the material he’d been exposed to was asbestos because he had worked near it previously.
Summary Judgment Overturned in Asbestos Case
Though Fluor successfully argued to the trial court that Benavidez’ discovery responses were “devoid of any ‘specific facts’” and that his deposition testimony had been “varied and inconsistent,” the appeals court overturned their decision to dismiss the case, agreeing that there were triable issues of material fact, regardless of his inconsistencies. He will have the opportunity to make his case to a jury.
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