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Sroka v. Union Carbide Corp.

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Northern Division

February 24, 2015

JOHN E. SROKA, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
UNION CARBIDE CORP., et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

WILLIAM D. QUARLES, Jr., District Judge.

John E. Sroka, now deceased, and his wife, Constance B. Sroka, [1] (the "Plaintiffs") sued Hopeman Brothers, Inc. ("Hopeman"), Lofton Corp., and Wayne Manufacturing Corp. (collectively, the "Defendants"), and others, [2] in an asbestos product liability action in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. ECF No. 2. The Defendants removed the suit to this Court. ECF No. 1. Pending is the Plaintiffs' motion to remand. ECF No. 90. No hearing is necessary. Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the following reasons, the motion will be granted.

I. Background

A. Facts[3]

From 1957 through the 1990s, Sroka worked as a union steamfitter and pipefitter at various shipyard sites throughout Baltimore, Maryland. ECF No. 90-1 at 1. From 1964 to 1997, Sroka worked for the U.S. Coast Guard at the Curtis Bay Yard, in Baltimore. ECF No. 1 at 2; ECF No. 5 at 4.[4] Sroka allegedly breathed "clouds of visible asbestos dust" when he was exposed to the Defendants' asbestos-containing marinite and micarta panels while working at those shipyard sites. ECF Nos. 2; 90-1 at 2, 4.[5] Sroka alleges that the Defendants' asbestos products lacked warnings. ECF No. 90-1 at 4. On August 24, 2012, Sroka was diagnosed with mesothelioma. ECF No. 2 at 16.[6] On December 8, 2012, Sroka died. ECF No. 90-1 at 2.

Norman W. Lemley, a retired U.S. Coast Guard Reserve Captain, averred that the Coast Guard approved the use of asbestos-containing marinite panels in the early 1930s. ECF No. 94-4 at 3 ("Lemley Affidavit").[7] Lemley further averred that "[f]ire resistant insulation and bulkhead materials [were] required to be approved by the United States Coast Guard" under 46 C.F.R. ยงยง 164.009, 164.007, and 164.012. ECF No. 94-4 at 2. Marinite was a "standard" component of a ship's interior finish. Id. at 3. Asbestos was a "major component of marinate... until the late 70s." Id. Shipbuilding specifications included "asbestos composition panels, " i.e., marinate. Id. at 3-4.

In 1936, the Navy's Bureau of Engineering issued General Specifications for Machinery, which required suppliers to provide "[s]afety precautions" as part of their instruction materials. ECF No. 90-6 at 1, 15. Those specifications "form[ed] part of all machinery contracts, and... govern[ed] in all cases unless modified or excepted... in each individual case." ECF No. 90-7 at 2.

A 1943 report, titled "Minimum Requirements for Safety and Industrial Health in Contract Shipyards" ("1943 Safety Report"), states that jobs involving asbestos, such as "covering pipes, " required the use of respiratory protective equipment. ECF No. 94-7 at 9. The 1943 Safety Report also notes that asbestosis was one of eight "common" industrial diseases, and recommends segregating jobs involving asbestos dust, and that workers receive "[p]eriodic medical examination." Id. at 10, 13.

In 1950, Military Specifications replaced the General Specifications for Machinery. ECF No. 90-8 at 2. The Military Specifications required suppliers' instruction books to contain, inter alia, safety notices when "special hazards [were] involved." Id. at 3. The 1957 and 1961 Military Specifications updates required parts lists to include "emphatics, such as NOTE, ' CAUTION, ' and WARNING, '... as [was] consistent with real need." ECF Nos. 90-9 at 8; 90-10 at 6. However, "[t]he intent" of the Military Specifications was "to accept the manufacturer's commercial type of manual or one prepared in accordance with... commercial practice whenever it is roughly equivalent to the detail requirements" stated in the Military Specifications. ECF No. 90-10 at 2.

From 1955 to 1977, Hopeman supplied products to the Curtis Bay Coast Guard, including asbestos-containing marinate panels. ECF No. 8 at 6.[8] The Coast Guard "identified exactly what product was being purchased, " including "as to composition and type, " and "size and color." Id. For example, the Coast Guard required Hopeman to provide "panels, marinate-face with micarta color-two sides yellow mist' size 8 in. by 48 in. by 96 in. (ten each)." ECF No. 8 at 6-7; 94-2 at 15-16; 95-3. John E. Baker, Hopeman's former Vice President and Secretary, swore that Hopeman's products met Coast Guard and Military Specifications. ECF No. 94-2 at 1-2 ("Baker Affidavit"). Although Hopeman had not performed joiner contracts at Curtis Bay, Hopeman had "provided miscellaneous replacement parts." Id. Attached to the Baker Affidavit are documents showing that Hopeman supplied-and invoiced for - parts in accordance with Coast Guard purchase orders for the Curtis Bay shipyard. Id. at 3-119.

B. Procedural History

On November 13, 2012, Sroka filed suit against manufacturers, distributers, suppliers, and installers of asbestos-containing products. ECF No. 2.[9] On November 4, 2013, the Defendants removed the suit to this Court under the federal officer removal statute.[10] ECF No. 1. On July 7, 2014, the Plaintiffs moved to remand. ECF No. 90. On July 23, 2014, the Defendants opposed the motion. ECF No. 94.[11] On August 11, 2014, the Plaintiffs replied. ECF No. 101.

II. Analysis

A. Removal ...


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