The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Howard (Est. of John C. Ravert) v. Pecora Corporation, et al, 2013 Pa. LEXIS 2199, has issued a ruling reaffirming several core principles of causation in Pennsylvania asbestos cases, avoiding the creation of bad law that would allow plaintiffs to defeat summary judgment with underdeveloped and unreliable evidence.   

Jennifer Stern, Esquire argued this appeal for Marks, O’Neill, O’Brien, Doherty & Kelly, P.C., before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on behalf of Pecora Corporation.  Ms. Stern and David Helwig, Esquire drafted the appellate briefs. Co-Appellants were Ace Hardware and Monsey Products.  Plaintiff/Appellee was represented by Paul, Reich & Myers.

The appeal originated from the Court of Common Pleas grant of defendants’ Motions for Summary Judgment.  Upon appeal, the Superior Court in Howard initially held that the defendants’ motion for summary judgment could be defeated by the submission of expert affidavits establishing the presence of “invisible dust,” without concern for the particular facts of the plaintiff’s case, despite the plaintiff’s own testimony that no dust was created when he used the products in question.  The Superior Court also held that a plaintiff bears a diminished burden of meeting a frequency, regularity, and proximity threshold of exposure in cases of mesothelioma, since the disease may be caused by limited exposure to asbestos. Defendants/Appellants petitioned for, and were granted allocatur.

In a unique sequence of events, at oral argument the plaintiff conceded the factual insufficiency of the case in a transparent effort to preserve the Superior Court’s incorrect interpretation of the law. Recognizing that the Superior Court’s decision could have created confusion in the trial courts, and per the request of the defense, the Supreme Court reversed the Superior Court’s ruling and issued a ruling reaffirming several key principles of causation in asbestos matters.