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Castorena v. General Electric

August 18, 2010

MILDRED CASTORENA, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SPOUSE AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF TED CASTORENA; ALENE STOORE, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SPOUSE AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF JOHN D. STOOR; STEPHANIE BRANCH, INDIVIDUALLY AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF ROBERT BRANCH, JR.; AND MARLENE KISLING, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF WILLIAM D. FRASURE, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
GENERAL ELECTRIC; ALASKAN COPPER WORKS; AMERIVENT SALES, INC.; ANCHOR PACKING COMPANY; A.W. CHESTERTON COMPANY; BECHTEL AKA SEQUOIA VENTURES; BELL & GOSSETT; BULLOUGH ABATEMENT, INC.; CERTAINTEED CORPORATION; CLEAVER BROOKS A DIVISION OF AQUA CHEM, INC.; CRANE CO.; CUTLER HAMMER; EBONY CONSTRUCTION CO.; EMERSON ELECTRIC CO.; FAIRBANKS MORSE PUMP CORPORATION; FMC CORPORATION; FOSTER WHEELER COMPANY; GARLOCK SEALING TECHNOLOGIES, LLC; GARLOCK INCORPORTATED; GOULD INCORPORATED; GOULD PUMPS TRADING CORP; HENRY VOGT MACHINE CO.; HILL BROTHERS; HONEYWELL, INC.; IMO INDUSTRIES; INDUSTRIAL HOLDING CORPORATION; ITT INDUSTRIES, INC.; INGERSOLL- RAND COMPANY; JOHNSTON PUMPS; KELLY-MOORE PAINT COMPANY, INC.; METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY; NIBCO, INC AKA NORTHERN INDIANA BRASS CO.; NORDSTROM VALVE COMPANY; OBIT INDUSTRIES, INC.; OWENS-ILLINOIS, INC.; PARAMOUNT SUPPLY COMPANY; PAUL ROBERTS MACHINE SUPPLY DIVISION; ADVANCED INDUSTRIAL SUPPLY, INC. FKA POCATELLO SUPPLY, INC.; RUPERT IRON WORKS; SACOMA-SIERRA; SCHNEIDER ELECTRIC KNOWN AS SQUARE D COMPANY); SHEPARD NILES, INC.; STERLING FLUID SYSTEM; VIACOM, INC.; WARREN PUMPS, INC.; WESTINGHOUSE ELECTRIC CORPORATION; ZURN INDUSTRIES, INC., DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS
WILLIS EUGENE NORTON, SR., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
GENERAL ELECTRIC, ALASKAN COPPER WORKS; AMERIVENT SALES, INC.; ANCHOR PACKING COMPANY; A.W. CHESTERTON COMPANY; BABITT STEAM SPECIALTY, CO.; BECHTEL AKA, SEQUOIA VENTURES; BULLOUGH ABATEMENT, INC.; BELL & GOSSETT; CERTAINTEED CORPORATION; CLEAVER-BROOKS, A DIVISION OF AQUA CHEM., INC.; CRANE CO.; CUTLER HAMMER; EBONY CONSTRUCTION CO.; EMERSON ELECTRIC CO.; FAIRBANKS MORSE PUMP CORPORATION; FMC CORPORATION; FOSTER WHEELER COMPANY; GARLOCK INCORPORATED; GOULD INCORPORATED; GOULDS PUMPS TRADING CORP.; HENRY VOGT MACHINE CO.; HILL BROTHERS; HONEYWELL, INC.; IMO INDUSTRIES; INDUSTRIAL HOLDING CORPORATION; ITT INDUSTRIES, INC.; INGERSOLL-RAND COMPANY; JOHNSTON PUMPS; KELLY-MOORE PAINT COMPANY, INC.; METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY; NIBCO, INC., A/K/A NORTHERN INDIANA BRASS CO.; NORDSTROM VALVE COMPANY; OBIT INDUSTRIES, INC.; OWENS-ILLINOIS, INC.; PARAMOUNT SUPPLY COMPANY; PAUL ROBERTS MACHINE SUPPLY DIVISION; ADVANCED INDUSTRIAL SUPPLY, INC. F/K/A POCATELLO SUPPLY, INC.; RELIANCE ELECTRIC MOTORS; ROCKWELL AUTOMATION, INC.; RUPERT IRON WORKS; SACOMA-SIERRA; SCHNEIDER ELECTRIC; SHEPARD NILES, INC.; STEEL WEST, INC.; STERLING FLUID SYSTEM; VIACOM INC.; WARREN PUMPS, INC.; WESTINGHOUSE ELECTRIC CORPORATION; AND ZURN INDUSTRIES, INC., DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.
JOHN D. ADAMSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS IN HIS CAPACITY AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR THE ESTATE OF JOHN H. ADAMSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
FMC CORPORATION, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ITS FORMER COFFIN TURBO PUMP OPERATION AND FORMER PEERLESS PUMP, CHICAGO PUMP AND LINK-BELT BUSINESS; NIKKO MATERIALS USA, INC., D/B/A GOULD ELECTRIC, INC., INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SUCCESSOR IN INTEREST TO GOULDS, INC., IMPERIAL CORPORATION, EASTMAN CORPORATION, IMPERIAL EASTMAN CORPORATION, ITE CIRCUIT BREAKER COMPANY, AND CENTURY ELECTRIC; SCHNEIDER ELECTRIC, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF SQUARE D. COMPANY; ALASKAN COOPER WORKS; ALLIS CHALMERS CORPORATION; AMERIVENT SALES, INC.; ERICSSON, INC., AS SUCCESSOR IN INTEREST TO ANACONDA WIRE & CABLE COMPANY; GARDNER DENVER, INC.; HENRY VOGT MACHINE CO.; ORBIT INDUSTRIES, INC.; PARAMOUNT SUPPLY CO.; PAUL ROBERTS MACHINE SUPPLY; POCATELLO SUPPLY, INC.; RUPERT IRON WORKS; PARKER HANNIFIN CORPORATION, SUCCESSOR IN INTEREST TO SACOMA-SIERRA, INC; STEEL WEST, INC.; BECHTEL, INC.; CRANE CO.; AMERICAN OPTICAL CORPORATION; EATON ELECTRICAL CORPORATION F/K/A CUTLER HAMMER; FLOWSERVE CORPORATION, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SUCCESSOR TO THE DURIRION COMPANY, INC, F/K/A DURCO INTERNATIONAL; FAIRBANKS MORSE PUMP CORPORATION; HONEYWELL, INC. (SPECIFICALLY EXCLUDING LIABILITY FOR NARCO), INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SUCCESSOR TO ALLIED SIGNAL, BENDIX, WHEELABRATOR, RUST ENGINEERING, AND ALLIED CHEMICAL; JOHNSON PUMPS; STERLING FLUID SYSTEM (PEERLESS PUMPS) DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.



Appeal from the District Court of the Sixth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Bannock County. Hon. Peter D. McDermott, District Judge for cases 36123 and 35124. Hon. Don L. Harding, District Judge for case 36852.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Burdick, Justice

2010 Opinion No. 94

Summary judgment on wrongful death action, reversed. Cases remanded.

This action, consolidated on appeal, arises out of grants of summary judgment in favor of defendant-respondent corporations (General Electric, et al.; A.W. Chesterton Co., et al.; and FMC Corp., et al.) (collectively, ―Respondents‖) on the grounds that the plaintiffs-appellants' (Mildred Castorena, et al.; Willis E. Norton, Sr.; and John D. Adamson, et al.) (collectively, ―Appellants‖) wrongful death claims were barred by the condition precedent to Idaho's wrongful death statute, because the statute of limitations for the decedents' actions had run prior to their deaths. On appeal, Appellants argue that the district courts improperly read I.C. § 5-311 -- in finding that the statute includes a condition precedent -- and further, that such an interpretation of the wrongful death statute brings it in violation with the ―open courts‖ provision of Article I, section 18 of the Idaho Constitution. We reverse the district courts' grants of summary judgment and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The facts in this case are not in dispute. This case has been consolidated on appeal from two orders entered by district courts, granting summary judgment in favor of Respondents on the basis that the running of the statute of limitations as to the decedents' own potential claims, prior to their deaths, bars Appellants from bringing actions for wrongful death. These rulings were based upon the finding that, under the condition precedent rule, actions for wrongful death may only be maintained by the decedent's heirs or representatives where the decedent could have maintained such an action if he had not died. The district court cases were filed on behalf of the heirs and personal estate representatives of John Stoor, Robert Branch, William Frasure, and John Adamson (the deceased shall be collectively referred to as ―Decedents‖) against various manufacturers of asbestos-containing products or machinery. Appellants brought wrongful death claims under I.C. § 5-311, alleging that, due to Decedents' exposure to the asbestos-containing products manufactured by Respondents, Decedents had contracted asbestos-related illnesses which led to their eventual deaths.

Each lawsuit was filed within two years of the date of each respective decedent's death, however each decedent had been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness more than two years prior to his death. The cases were decided by the district courts under a two-step analysis: (1) Idaho's wrongful death statute, I.C. § 5-311, contains an implicit condition precedent that the decedent's heirs cannot bring a cause of action against an injuring party unless the decedent himself could have brought a cause of action against that injuring party, had he lived; and (2) the Decedents would have been barred from bringing suit against the Respondents, as the statute of limitations had run as to their own claims.

II. ISSUES ON APPEAL

1. Whether Idaho's wrongful death statute, I.C. § 5-311, has an implied condition precedent, that the statute of limitations begins to run at the time the actionable wrong was committed or whether the statute of limitations for the survivor's cause of action begins to run at the time of the death of the tort victim.

2. Whether, if the condition precedent does not apply to the defense of statutes of limitations of a decedent's right to bring a cause of action, summary judgment should still be upheld in favor of the Respondents in the underlying Adamson case on the grounds that the Appellants in the Adamson case had failed to demonstrate that all parties necessary to that action had been joined.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

As noted in Vavold v. State:

When reviewing an order for summary judgment, the standard of review for this Court is the same standard as that used by the district court in ruling on the motion. Summary judgment is appropriate if ―the pleadings, depositions, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.‖ I.R.C.P. 56(c). Disputed facts should be construed in favor of the non-moving party, and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the record are to be drawn in favor of the non-moving party. This Court exercises free review over questions of law. 148 Idaho 44, __, 218 P.3d 388, 389 (2009) (quoting Armstrong v. Farmers Ins. Co. of Idaho, 147 Idaho 67, 69, 205 P.3d 1203, 1205 (2009)).

IV. ANALYSIS

A. Idaho Code § 5-311 Contains A Condition Precedent, But The Condition Precedent Does Not Apply To The Expiration Of The Statute Of Limitations As To The Decedent's Own Claim

This Court must first determine whether, as this Court has held for over a century, Idaho's wrongful death statute, I.C. § 5-311, is properly read as containing an implied condition precedent that an action for wrongful death may only be brought where the injury to the decedent was such that the decedent himself could have brought a cause of action against the injuring party had the decedent lived. If we find that this long-standing statutory interpretation is correct, then we must determine the scope of the condition precedent. We shall first consider whether Idaho's wrongful death statute contains a condition precedent, and then consider the proper scope of such a condition.

Appellants argue that I.C. § 5-311, the wrongful death statute, does not contain a condition precedent when interpreted according to its plain meaning, nor if broader rules of statutory construction are employed. Respondents argue that Idaho Courts have long interpreted the wrongful death statute as containing a condition precedent, as have the majority of other jurisdictions interpreting similarly worded wrongful death statutes.

1. History of Idaho's Wrongful Death Statute - Idaho Code § 5-311

It is generally accepted that there was no action for wrongful death at common law, at least following the decision of Baker v. Bolton, (1808) 170 Eng. Rep. 1033 (K.B.), and where a person was injured by the wrongful act or omission of another any right for civil relief ended with the injured party's death. 2 Fowler V. Harper & Fleming James, Jr., The Law of Torts, § 24.1, p. 1284 (1956). But see, e.g., Justus v. Atchison, 565 P.2d 122, 128 (Cal. 1977), overruled on other grounds by Ochoa v. Superior Court, 703 P.2d 1 (Cal. 1985) (―In 1970 . . . the United States Supreme Court recognized a cause of action from wrongful death under general maritime law and in so ruling cast doubt on the historical basis of the [belief] that no cause of action for wrongful death existed at common law.‖) This changed in 1846 when England passed the Fatal Accidents Act, 1846, 9 & 10 Vict., c. 93 (Eng.), more commonly known as Lord Campbell's Act.*fn1 Tiffany, Death by Wrongful Act, § 4 (2nd ed. 1913). Every State in America has since passed its own version of a wrongful death statute. Adams v. Armstrong World Indus., 596 F. Supp. 1407, 1412 (D. Idaho 1984), rev'd on other grounds by, 847 F.2d 589 (9th Cir. 1988).

These wrongful death statutes are either (1) survival statutes, which preserve the deceased's cause of action for the heirs while amplifying the amount of damages because of the death; or (2) ―death acts‖ based on Lord Campbell's Act which creates a new cause of action for the ...


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