On July 18, 2013, the Superior Court issued five decisions on defendant’s pre-trial motions in an asbestos case that might become the first such case to go to trial in Rhode Island in over 20 years. The decisions provide some guidance on how the Court may rule on similar motions in other cases.
Defendant moved to exclude the proposed testimony of Capt. Arnold Moore regarding military procurement and specifications arguing that Moore is not qualified to offer such testimony and that his testimony is based on “pure speculation.” The Court decided it would hold a pre-trial hearing to determine Moore’s qualifications. It is unclear whether that hearing will also address whether Moore’s testimony has an adequate basis although the decision refers to the general issue of whether an expert’s testimony is “helpful” to the trier of fact.
The Court denied defendant’s motion to exclude evidence about other asbestos-containing products in its catalogs. The Court said that evidence was relevant to whether defendant knew its products would require asbestos-containing replacement parts and should have known plaintiff would be exposed to asbestos when working with replacement parts for defendant’s products at issue.
The Court denied defendant’s motion to exclude documents of a trade association to which it belonged. The Court said plaintiff can use the documents to prove defendant knew or should have known of the dangers of asbestos.
The Court held defendant could not read the allegations of plaintiff’s complaint, including the names of all the listed defendants, during opening statement. However, the Court said defendant may be allowed to get all that information into evidence during the course of trial.
Finally, the Court denied defendant’s motion to exclude evidence respecting a post-sale duty to warn, essentially on the grounds it was moot. Plaintiff said she was not asserting such a claim and she intended to prove defendant knew or should have known of the dangers of asbestos at the time of the sale of the subject products.
All five decisions are captioned Sweredoski v. Alfa Laval, Inc., P.C. No. 2011-1544 (R.I. Super. July 18, 2013).
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