Ohio Court Avoids the Application of Schwartz v. Honeywell Int’l, Inc.  Thumbnail

Ohio Court Avoids the Application of Schwartz v. Honeywell Int’l, Inc.

Recently, the Eighth District Court of Appeals (the Court from which Schwartz arose) considered whether it was required to apply the Ohio Supreme Court’s 2018 holding in Schwartz v. Honeywell Int’l, Inc. finding that the “Cumulative-Exposure Theory” was not compatible with Ohio’s Asbestos Statute (ORC 2307.91, et seq.)  The Eighth District ultimately found Schwartz distinguishable.
 
In February 2018, the Ohio Supreme Court concluded in Schwartz v. Honeywell Int’l, Inc. that the cumulative-exposure theory is inconsistent with the test for causation outlined in ORC §2307.96 and, therefore, is not a sufficient basis for finding a defendant’s conduct was a substantial factor in causing an asbestos-related disease. 153 Ohio St. 3d 175, 2018-Ohio-474. ORC §2307.96 incorporates a standard for evaluating the potential causal link between exposure to a product and the claimed asbestos-related injury. In applying the Ohio statute, the Schwartz Court found that the cumulative exposure theory advanced by the plaintiff’s expert was at odds with the requisite “individualized determination for each defendant” set forth in ORC §2307.96.  Schwartz, 153 Ohio St. 3d at 180. The expert provided testimony at trial that the specific defendant’s product “contributed to [plaintiff’s] cumulative exposures” but stated it was “impossible to determine which particular exposure to carcinogens, if any, caused an illness.”  Id. at 179.
 
Ohio courts have reacted by distinguishing Schwartz, including the Eighth District Court of Appeals (the Court from which Schwartz arose) in Maddy v. Honeywell Int’l, Inc., 2020-Ohio-3969, 2020 Ohio App. LEXIS 2872 (8th Dist. Ct. App. Aug. 6, 2020). In Maddy, the Court distinguished Schwartz by looking at specific phrases in the Schwartz decision such as “the evidence ‘merely’ showed that the decedent ‘could have been exposed’ to asbestos …and did not show that the decedent was exposed to asbestos…”.  Maddy at ¶ 102 citing Schwartz, 153 Ohio St. 3d at 182 (emphasis added).  Further, the Maddy court identified that the exposures in Schwartz were found to be “limited and irregular exposures” from “occasional brake jobs”.  Maddy at ¶ 103 citing Schwartz, 153 Ohio St. 3d at 182 (emphasis added).
 
If appealed, the Maddy decision may give The Ohio Supreme Court the opportunity to broaden Schwartz to address the lower courts’ treatment of the holding.  Stay tuned.  (For a more detailed analysis of these cases and issues, please click here.)

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