California appellate court bucks national trend, allows plaintiff experts to opine that “every asbestos exposure is a substantial factor”

Courts from around the country have rejected efforts by plaintiff experts to testify that every asbestos exposure is a substantial factor in causing disease. On March 3, 2016, California’s second appellate district went the other way, and held in Davis v. Honeywell International, Inc. that the controversial “every exposure counts” theory is admissible under governing expert witness law.   Thus, although trial courts are supposed to play a “gatekeeper” role in keeping out unreliable expert evidence (Sargon Enterprises, Inc. v. University of Southern California (2012) 55 Cal.4th 747), Davis breaks the gate wide open in allowing a jury, not the trial court in its “gatekeeper” role, to decide whether to accept the theory.

Davis was aGATEPICTURE wrongful death case.  Sam Davis  worked as an auto mechanic and home remodeler from approximately 1963 to 1979.  He performed “one or two” brake jobs per day, and always used Bendix brake linings (for which defendant Honeywell was responsible). These linings contained 50 percent chrysotile asbestos by weight.  He was also allegedly exposed to asbestos as a result of his home remodel work.

Prior to trial, Honeywell filed a motion in limine to preclude plaintiff from presenting expert opinion testimony that every exposure to asbestos above background contributed to decedent’s disease. The motion was denied, and plaintiff’s pathologist (James A. Strauchen, M.D.) and pulmonologist (William Rom, M.D.) were permitted to testify and advance the theory. Ultimately, the jury found for plaintiffs, and Honeywell appealed.

Honeywell’s primary basis for appeal was that the “every exposure counts” testimony of Dr. Strauchen should have been excluded. Honeywell advanced four arguments:  (1) the testimony was speculative and illogical; (2) the regulatory standards Strauchen relied upon cannot establish causation; (3) no appropriate scientific literature supports the theory; and (4) the theory is contrary to California causation law espoused in Rutherford v. Owens Illinois (1997) 16 Cal.4th 953, which held that not every exposure to asbestos is a “substantial factor” in causing disease.

Davis rejected each of Honeywell’s arguments. “Having reviewed much of the commentary and scientific literature cited in support of and against the ‘every exposure’ theory, we conclude that the theory is the subject of legitimate scientific debate.   Because in ruling on the admissibility of expert testimony the trial court ‘does not resolve scientific controversies (Sargon), it is for the jury to resolve the conflict between the every exposure theory and any competing expert opinions.”  The court focused largely on the mere existence of evidence that supported the “every exposure counts” theory, and declined to weigh the evidence or any competing inferences.   “While Honeywell is generally correct that in many (or even most) instances epidemiological studies provide the best evidence of causation, its implied argument that it is improper for an expert to rely upon any other tools to determine causation, such as case reports, is not universally accepted.”  As to Honeywell’s argument that “every exposure” contravenes Rutherford, Davis  interpreted Rutherford as not requiring a “dose level estimation,” instead issuing a sweeping statement interpreting Rutherford as supporting the conclusion that even a very small “dose” could increase the risk of asbestos-related cancer.  Davis distinguished the many cases from other jurisdictions rejecting this argument, including Betz v. Pneumo Abex, LLC (2012) 615 Pa. 504, Bostic v. Georgia-Pacific Corp. (Tex. 2014) 439 S.W.3d 332 and Moeller v. Garlock Sealing Technologies, LLC (6th Cir. 2011) 660 F.3d 950. “[W]e simply disagree” that the “every exposure” theory could not be “reconciled with the fact that mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases are dose-dependent.”

The Davis court did state, however, that “[w]e caution that our discussion of the materials Dr. Strauchen relied upon should not be seen as approval of either side in that scientific dispute.  Rather, we rely upon the rule of Sargon that although trial courts ‘have a substantial ‘gatekeeping’ responsibility,’ in evaluating proposed expert opinion . . . the gate tended is not a partisan checkpoint . . . If the opinion is based on materials on which the expert may reasonably rely in forming the opinion, and flows in a reasoned chain of logic from those materials rather than from speculation or conjecture, the opinion may pass, even though the trial court or other experts disagree with its conclusion or the methods and materials used to reach it.  (emphasis added)

Further, although much of the discussion relates to the “any exposure” theory, Davis pointed out that the case did not hinge on that theory.  “In this case, Dr. Strauchen was presented with a hypothetical based on the facts surrounding Davis’ exposure to dust from his work on Bendix brake linings, and testified as to estimates of the amount of asbestos fibers contained in visible dust. Therefore, his conclusion that Davis’ exposure to Bendix brake linings was a substantial factor in contributing to the risk of mesothelioma was not based simply on “any exposure” to asbestos, but instead related to an estimate of actual exposure.”

The decision is not yet final. It is still subject to a petition for rehearing, which could result in a change in the opinion, and to either or both a request for depublication and a petition for review to the California Supreme Court, either of which if granted would make this decision uncitable in California courts, though not necessarily elsewhere.

Strong Contractual Terms Can Deflect Tort Liability

Well drafted contracts provide an effective means to mitigate tort liability. In particular, contractual risk allocation provisions can assist companies in better controlling their litigation disposing of claims when they arise.

In an article titled, “Minimizing Tort Liability with the Right Terms,” which appeared in Law360 on February 29, 2012, Shook Hardy & Bacon authors, Paul A. Williams,Charles C. Eblen andKristina L. Burmeister, discuss the importance of various contractual provisions in blunting tort liability.
To illustrate their point, the SH&B lawyers discuss the Third Circuit’s opinion in Greenspan v. ADT Security Servs., Nos. 10-2901, 10-202 (3d Cir., Sept. 20, 2011). The case involved property damage claims resulting from a fire at the plaintiffs’ Pennsylvania residence. The Plaintiffs sued ADT for breach of contract and negligence, claiming that ADT insufficiently repaired and monitored their fire alarm system.

On appeal, the Third Circuit agreed with ADT that the contract’s risk allocation provisions provided a valid defense against all of plaintiff’s claims, including gross negligence. The court ruled that plaintiff could recover in contract only, not tort, because the common law did not impose a separate tort duty to monitor an alarm system. By strictly enforcing the contractual risk allocation provisions in the contract, jurisprudence such as Greenspan provides business with the ability to mitigate tort risk and litigation costs through well drafted contracts.

Increasingly, plaintiffs are attempting to broaden what should be contractual disputes into tort litigation. Greenspan is a perfect example of this trend. In addition to a well drafted contract, defendants are often able to escape tort liability by invoking the economic loss rule. In practice, courts have generally applied the economic loss rule either when the loss claimed in tort is the subject matter of a contract between the parties, or when the plaintiff asserts product liability claims and the defect harmed the product only and not people or other property.

The SH&B article advises that an effective risk-allocation framework should contain the following provisions:

• Waiver of Subrogation;
• Limitation of Liability;
• Limitation of Action;
• Insurance Requirements; and
• Indemnity Clause

In drafting each of these provisions, it is necessary to be mindful of the legal requirements underlying each of these contractual terms. General contractual construction rules to keep in mind include:

1. An effective contract spells out the expectations to ensure that the waiver of subrogation provision is deemed a true waiver of subrogation and not merely an exculpatory provision;

 2. The waiver of subrogation provision should provide that the customer agrees to procure insurance for damages that might arise in connection with the performance of the contract and that the company be named as an additional insured;

 3. The customer should be required to waive all right of recovery beyond the proceeds of his insurance policy and agree that his insurer will not have a right of subrogation against the company;

 4. Each of these contractual provisions should be placed under separate headings in the contract so that they do not blend into and become obscured by other provisions in the contract;

5. Effective contracts should be signed by both parties and definitively indicate if the contract contains more than one page. The customer should sign or initial each page of the contract, or acknowledge that she has read and agrees to all terms and conditions of the contract on each page;

6. It is good practice for language disclaiming consequential damages or otherwise limiting recovery under warranty appear conspicuously in the contract, preferably in bolded caps; and

7. Indemnification provisions should explicitly state that the company has the right to select its own counsel to represent it in any action subject to the indemnification clause in the contract.

What’s Next?

Now that the company has a well drafted, legally binding contract with the customer, the company must take steps to ensure that it doesn’t misplace the contract. The SH&B authors point out that document management is essential to the defensive use of a contract in litigation. If the contract at issue cannot be found, it may be difficult to assert contractual offenses and may unnecessarily expose the company to significant liability.

 Or, as famed criminal defense lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, might have cautioned, “If you lose it, you can’t use it!”


No Duty To Disclose To Prospective Homeowners

What is the duty of a real estate developer to disclose to prospective residential purchasers information about the neighborhood that may adversely impact property values? Apparently none if the developer is not in privity with the homeowners, according to the Eleventh Circuit.

On May 21, 2012, Law 360 reported on the Eleventh Circuit’s decision in Luis Virgilio v. Terrabrook Vista Lakes L.P., et al. , Case No. 11-11027 (5/18/12).  We have discussed in a past article the circumstances under which a commercial  real estate broker may be found have a duty to disclose environmental liabilities to a prospective purchaser.  Here, the court was clearly troubled by the question of how far the developer’s potential liablity to disclose “inside information” would extend and how an obligation to disclose this information could be satisfied..

By way of background, class action plaintiffs purchased their homes from a builder, The Ryland Group, Inc. (“Ryland”), in a subdivision in Vista Lakes, a residential development in Orlando, Florida. Unbeknownst to the Virgilios (and other members of the class), the homes they purchased from Ryland were located adjacent to Pinecastle,  a World War II bombing range that, to this day, remains laden with unexploded bombs, ammunition, ordinance and related chemicals. Once Pinecastle’s existence became public, the homes in the subdivision lost considerable market value and the Virgilios brought this lawsuit to compensate for their loss.

Plaintiffs entered into a $1,200,000 settlement with Ryland and then turned their attention to the four other defendants involved in the development and marketing of the subdivision. However, on the same day that the district court certified the plaintiff class and approved the Ryland settlement, it dismissed plaintiffs’ claims against the remaining defendants as legally insufficient. On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the trial court ruling in all respects.

Plaintiffs pursued four legal theories against the developer defendants, all based on their failure to inform plaintiffs about Pinecastle before they purchased their homes. One developer/defendant, Terrabrook, sold Ryland the undeveloped land that became the subdivision. At the time of the sale, Terrabrook informed Ryland of this real estate law firm existence. Terrabrook actively marketed Vista Lakes to prospective buyers and received a commission for each home or lot sold.

Count 1 of the Complaint attributed the defendants’ duty to disclose to the Florida Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Johnson v. Davis, which holds that “when a seller of a home knows the facts materially affecting the value of the property which are not readily observable and are not known to the buyer, the seller is under a duty to disclose them to the buyer.”

In Johnson v. Davis, the court overturned the old rule that  “where the parties are dealing at arms length and facts lie equally open to both parties, with equal opportunity of examination, mere non-disclosure does not constitute fraudulent concealment.” The Florida Supreme Court concluded, however, that this rule was “not in tune with the times and did not conform with current notions of justice, equity and fair dealing.” Thus, Florida’s high court held that the law required “full disclosure of all material facts” whenever “elementary fair conduct demands it.”

In rejecting plaintiffs’ argument that Johnson v. Davis should be applied to uphold their claims, the Eleventh Circuit found no facts to support the plaintiffs’ conclusory allegation that the defendants were acting as Ryland’s agent in promoting homes in the development. As the Court noted, “Count 1 is missing an essential allegation – the critical element of an agency relationship – that the principal exercised, or had the ability to exercise, control over the agent.”

Count 2 is silent as to the source of the duty, but suggests that it lies in equity since it is a claim for unjust enrichment. Count 2 alleges that because defendants failed to inform plaintiffs about Pinecastle, it would be inequitable for defendants to retain the benefits. Count 3 locates the duty in the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (“FDUTPA”), FLA Stat. §§ 501.201 et seq., asserting that defendants’ failure to inform plaintiffs about Pinecastle constituted a “deceptive, misleading and unfair trade practice.” Count 4 locates the duty to disclose in common law negligence.

The heart of the Eleventh Circuit’s decision is its refusal to extend Johnson v. Davis.  The court found that the case did not apply because: (1) the defendants were not in privity with the buyer or acting as an agent in privity with the buyer (such as the seller’s real estate broker); and (2) there was no allegation in Count 1 that defendants’ “marketing efforts were at the behest or direction of Ryland, that Ryland exercised any control over [the] marketing efforts, or that [defendants] actually listed any of the homes… on behalf of Ryland.”

Applying the same logic to Count 2, the court held that even assuming the plaintiffs conferred a benefit on defendants, Johnson’s duty to disclose did not extend to defendants. Thus, since defendants did not breach a duty to plaintiffs, plaintiffs had not been wronged and defendants were not unjustly enriched. The trial court dismissed Count 3 because the alleged FDUTPA “deceptive or unfair trade practice” was the breach of an affirmative duty of disclosure. Since the Court determined in dismissing Count 1 that there was no such duty, the FDUTPA claim was dismissed as well.

In essence, the Eleventh Circuit found plaintiffs’ “argument – that because defendants developed and marketed Vista Lakes, they had a duty to warn prospective purchasers of Pinecastle’s existence – without merit.”  Rejecting plaintiffs’ logic, the Court observed:

What about those to whom Ryland’s home buyers sold their houses? Would Terrabrook have a duty to them as well? Since Terrabrook was not a party to Ryland’s contracts with the buyers, and thus did not know the buyers’ identities, under Plaintiffs’ approach the only way Defendants could discharge their duty of care would be through marketing: Defendants could not escape liability unless they saturated the market place with the negative information

Would  the case have turned out differently if the developer had prepared brochures that affirmatively misrepresented the environmental condition of the neighborhood?  In granting summary judgment, the district court said that while it was foreseeable that the defendants’ general marketing campaign could lead some members of the public to consider purchasing a home in Vista Lakes, the general marketing had nothing to do with any particular home in Vista Lakes and simply put plaintiffs in face-to-face discussions with Ryland.

For more on the lower court’s decision and a discussion of developments built on former bombing ranges, see Larry Schnapf’s informative discussion titled “Home on the Bombing Range” and his more recent discussion about the Eleventh Circuit’s decision.


Breach Of Warranty & Product Liability Claims Dismissed Against Auto Service Provider

In 2008, the parents of Sean Reeps, brought suit against BMW, Martin Motor Sales and Hassel Motors (“Hassel”), alleging that Sean’s mother, Debra, was exposed to gasoline fumes in the family’s BMW during her pregancy, which resulted in Sean being born with birth defects. Amarillo motor vehicle accident attorney will work with you in all types of vehicle accidents like Sean’s mother. The Complaint alleged causes of action in (1) negligence; (2) strict products liability; (3) breach of express warranty; and (4) breach of implied warranty (merchantability) . The timeline of events is as follows:

1991-In March and again in November, Reeps bring their 1989 BMW 525i to Hassel Motors, a licensed BMW dealer, to fix an exhaust odor inside the car.  Dealer fails to identiify an exhaust odor in March, but later identifies problem as a split fuel hose and repairs it under warranty.

1992-In May, Sean Reeps is born with birth defects, including cerebral palsy, which plaintiffs  attribute to Debra’s  inhalation of gas fumes early in pregnancy.

1994-BMW recalls BMW525i vehicles due to safety defect that caused odor due to feed fuel hose. Car is no longer with plaintiffs at the time.

On summary judgment, BMW argued that plaintiff’s claims were barred by the doctrine of spoliation because plaintiff could not establish a prima facie case without the car or the fuel hose to show the actual alleged defect.  BMW’s expert testified by affidavit that the Reeps’ leakage was caused by a split in the fuel hose, not by the defect that was the subject of the recall.  Thus, in the absence of the actual fuel hose, BMW argued, plaintiff could not demonstrate a defect.

The trial court rejected BMW’s spoliation argument, holding that there was no evidence of “willful or contumacious conduct” by plaintiff in disposing of the car. Remarkably, the Reeps’ BMW was actually found, but clearly not in the same condition as it was in 1991 and, not surprisingly, without the original fuel hose. The trial court held that plaintiff was not “barred from pursuing his claim, but rather he will have the onerous trial burden of proving his case solely by circumstantial evidence.”

New York law requires that to establish a prima facie case for strict product liability or design defect, a plaintiff must show that the manufacturer marketed a product that was not reasonably safe in its design; that it was feasible to design the product in a safer manner; and that the defective design was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s injury. When the product at issue is no longer available, and the plaintiff seeks to prove a manufacturing defect by circumstantial evidence, the plaintiff must not only establish that the product did not perform as intended, but must also exclude all other causes of failure not attributable to the manufacturer.

The trial court denied Hassel’s motion for summary judgment. The gravamen for plaintiff’s claims against Hassel was that it was negligent in failing to find the split fuel hose when the Reeps first complained of fuel odor in March 1991. Plaintiffs argued that if Hassel had identified and repaired the problem, Mrs. Reeps would not have inhaled any fumes during her pregnancy. In denying the dealer’s motion for summary judgment, the court observed that there is a high bar for obtaining summary judgment in a negligence action. As the court noted, “Simply put, Hassel must prove that it was not negligent when it failed to find a source of the gas fumes complained of by the Reeps in March 1991. It has not done so.”

In its decision, dated April 5, 2012, the Appellate Division, First Department, weighed in on both the spoliation issue and the motion for summary judgment by Hassel. On the spoliation issue, the Appellate Division held that the defendants “failed to demonstrate that the parents disposed of the vehicle with knowledge of its potential evidentiary value.” Moreover, the court discussed the existence of other available evidence, including BMW’s Recall Bulletin and Hassel Motors-service records for the relevant period, which served to mitigate the loss of the vehicle. Basically, the court examined two of the key factors in evaluating spoliation sanctions – prejudice and intent – and determined that the movants had failed to establish either element in seeking sanctions.

As to plaintiff’s claims against Hassel, the Appellate Division held that the product liability and breach of implied and express warranty claims should be dismissed because the service provider did not design, manufacture, distribute or sell the vehicle. This holding may be the most important in the case because it clarifies that service providers, as opposed to product sellers, can not be held liable under strict product liability or breach of warranty theories of liability. Therefore, the only remaining claim against Hassel sounds in negligence, which may be difficult for plaintiff to establish at trial after a twenty year hiatus.

Apart from its other burdens, plaintiff will have to demonstrate general causation at trial, that is, whether exposure to chemical components in gasoline fumes have been associated in the scientific literature with the specific teratogenic effects alleged, including cerebral palsy. If plaintiff is able to prove general causation, he will then have to prove specific causation, that is, whether the dose of the purported teratogen was high enough, and lasted for a sufficient duration, to cause the specific birth defect.

The plaintiff attributes his injury to Debra Reeps’ inhalation of gas fumes during the first couple of months of her pregnancy between August 1991 and November 1991, when the problem with the vehicle was fixed. Are the alleged teratogenic effects associated with a toxic exposure early in pregnancy? How often did Debra Reeps ride in the automobile during those first couple of months? If the odor problem was significant, is it likely that the Reeps would not have returned their BMW 525i, which was under warranty, to the dealership before November? Because there is no expert deposition discovery under New York state practice, we will have to await trial to learn how these issues plays out.


Lenient Asbestos Causation Standard Rejected In Toxic Tort Case

Guest Blogger M.C. Sungaila, one of California’s most best known appellate advocates,  briefed and successfully argued the Molina appeal discussed here on behalf of Shell and Chevron. 

A California appeals court rejected the lenient increased risk causation standard used to establish causation in asbestos cases in a toxic tort case not involving asbestos.  The Second Appellate District of the California Court of Appeal in Los Angeles upheld a defense verdict last month, in  Molina v. Shell Oil Company et al, determining that the trial court correctly refused to charge the Rutherford “increased risk” instruction applicable in asbestos cases because the ability of a product to cause the type of harm suffered by the plaintiff was hotly contested.

After a five-week trial and four days of deliberations in the trial court, a jury concluded that William Molina – who suffered from a variety of cancers and other ailments — was not entitled to damages for his alleged exposure to defendants’ solvents during his 17-year career at a Firestone tire plant. The jury found that neither the solvents’ design nor any warning associated with them was a substantial factor in causing Molina’s non-Hodgkins lymphoma (NHL). Molina appealed, claiming among other things that the causation instruction used in California’s asbestos litigation should have been given to the jury.

The appeals court court stopped short, however, of holding that the more liberal  Rutherford causation standard can never apply outside the asbestos context. Nevertheless, the Court of Appeal addressed a question repeatedly posed to trial courts throughout the state over the last five years: should a more lenient causation standard adopted by the California Supreme Court in the asbestos context be extended to other types of toxic tort cases like benzene? The appellate court’s answer was a qualified "no".

Causation, of course, is an essential element of a tort action. California has definitively adopted the substantial factor test of the Restatement Second of Torts for cause-in-fact determinations. Implicit in the substantial factor causation standard in a toxic tort case is the requirement of proving both that a chemical can cause a particular adverse health effect and that it did cause that effect in the plaintiff.  In other words, proof of causation necessarily includes a threshold determination whether, in reasonable medical probability, a particular chemical is capable of causing in humans the type of harm suffered by the plaintiff (i.e., “general causation”).  If the chemical does not possess that capacity, the chemical cannot have caused the particular plaintiff’s claimed harm.  But if the chemical does have that capacity, then the causation inquiry shifts to whether the plaintiff’s exposure to the chemical in question was, in reasonable medical probability, a substantial factor in causing this particular plaintiff’s harm (i.e., “specific causation”). Toxic tort causation also involves a threshold element of exposure. In order to determine whether an exposure is a possible contributing factor to a plaintiff’s injury, ‘[f]requency of exposure, regularity of exposure, and proximity of the . . . product to [the] plaintiff are certainly relevant.” (Lineaweaver v. Plant Insulation Co. (1995) 31 Cal.App.4th 1409, 1416.)

Molina contended that California Civil Jury Instruction (CACI) No. 435, a relaxed “increased risk” causation instruction, should have been given because of the difficulties of proving cancer causation. The defendants successfully urged that the increased risk instruction under Rutherford should not apply where, as in Molina’s case, the ability of a chemical to cause a particular type of cancer is hotly disputed and far from well-established.

In Rutherford v. Owens-Illinois, Inc. (1997) 16 Cal.4th 953, 960, at the end of the first phase of trial, the jury concluded that exposure to asbestos fibers proximately caused the decedent’s lung cancer and awarded damages. After this phase, several defendants settled. In a second phase of trial, the jury was asked to apportion damages and allocate fault to the remaining defendant, Owens-Illinois. Owens-Illinois objected to the use of an instruction in the second phase of trial which stated that, once the plaintiff had established both that he was exposed to defendants’ asbestos and that his injuries were legally caused by asbestos exposure generally, the burden then shifted to the defendant to establish that its product was not a legal cause of the plaintiff’s harm.

The California Supreme Court rejected the use of the burden-shifting instruction as too “fundamental” a departure from traditional substantial factor causation. However, the Court concluded that, rather than be required to “trace the unknowable path of a given asbestos fiber,” a “plaintiff[] may prove causation in [an] asbestos-related cancer case[] by demonstrating that the plaintiff’s exposure to defendant’s asbestos-containing product in reasonable medical probability [fn. omitted] was a substantial factor in contributing to the aggregate dose of asbestos the plaintiff or decedent inhaled or ingested, and hence to the risk of developing asbestos-related cancer, without the need to demonstrate that fibers from the defendant’s particular product were the ones, or among the ones, that actually produced the malignant growth.”

Thus, in Rutherford, “it was already determined what caused the plaintiff’s illness—asbestos. The only remaining issue before the Court was the proper standard for determining who manufactured or supplied the asbestos that caused the plaintiff’s illness.” (Loewen, Causation in Toxic Tort Cases: Has the Bar Been Lowered? (Spring 2003) 17 Nat. Res. & Env’t 228, 229 (hereafter Loewen).) As one commentator observed: “This is undoubtedly the reason that the Rutherford court consistently and repeatedly limited its holding to ‘asbestos-related cancer cases’: its language linking risk to cause was expressly limited to cases where it has been determined that the cancer was ‘asbestos-related.’” (Ibid.) Accordingly, Rutherford does not apply in a case like this, where the ability of the defendants’ products to cause the plaintiff’s type of cancer is hotly disputed.

In Molina’s case, defendants’ toxicology expert testified that solvents do not cause NHL.  While one plaintiffs’ expert asserted that solvents could cause NHL, another plaintiffs’ expert testified that the evidence of a causal link between benzene and NHL was “weak” and therefore he could not state to a reasonable degree of medical probability that benzene could cause NHL.  Moreover, one of plaintiffs’ experts admitted that NHL is frequently idiopathic or of unknown origin.

The Court of Appeal agreed that the trial court correctly refused the Rutherford “increased risk” instruction applicable in asbestos cases. Rutherford involved a very different situation: in that case, a jury had already determined that the asbestos had caused the plaintiff’s lung cancer. The only remaining question was which manufacturers were responsible. The cause of Mr. Molina’s NHL, however, was not established.  In fact, the capability of defendants’ products to cause Mr. Molina’s injury was one of the most critical and hotly disputed issues in the case.