Bobo v. AGCO Corporation et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION as more fully set out in order. Signed by Judge C Lynwood Smith, Jr on 06/22/15. (SPT )
2015 Jun-22 PM 03:32
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
MELISSA ANN BOBO and
SHANNON JEAN COX, as CoPersonal Representatives of the
Estate of Barbara Bobo, deceased,
Civil Action No. CV 12-S-1930-NE
Barbara Bobo, now deceased, commenced this action during her lifetime. The
gravamen of her complaint was that she suffered from malignant pleural
mesothelioma as a result of being “wrongfully exposed” to asbestos fibers, “an
inherently dangerous toxic substance,”1 that originated in the Browns Ferry Nuclear
Plant operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority. Mrs. Bobo, however, never
worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority in any capacity. Moreover, she was never
inside its Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant. Instead, her claims were derivative: that is,
they grew out of her weekly practice of laundering the asbestos-laden work clothes
worn by her husband during the twenty-two years that he was employed at the
Doc. no. 1 (Complaint), ¶ 12; doc. no. 171 (First Amended Complaint), ¶ 12.
Browns Ferry Nuclear facility.2
Mrs. Bobo’s original complaint asserted claims against nine defendants, seven
of which had allegedly developed, manufactured, marketed, distributed, or sold
asbestos-containing products,3 and one (the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company)
that had allegedly “conspired with other asbestos suppliers and product manufacturers
to mislead the public as to the hazards of asbestos.”4 All of Mrs. Bobo’s claims
against those other defendants were dismissed at various stages of the proceedings
pursuant to stipulations for dismissal.5
See doc. no. 171 (First Amended Complaint), ¶ 12(a) (alleging that Barbara Bobo’s husband
was employed by TVA “from 1975-1997”); doc. no. 174 (Memorandum Opinion and Order), at 3
(observing that the amended complaint expanded the amount of time during which plaintiff alleges
that she was exposed to airborne asbestos fibers brought into her home on the person and clothing
of her husband, a former TVA employee, from ten to twenty-two years: “that is, from 1975 to 1997,
as opposed to the period of 1975 to 1985 alleged in the original complaint”).
The seven defendants that allegedly developed, manufactured, marketed, distributed, or sold
asbestos-containing products were: (i) Agco Corporation, formerly known as Allis Calmers
Company, and sued as successor to Massey Ferguson Limited (“Agco”) (doc. no. 1 (Complaint), ¶
3); (ii) CBS Corporation, formerly known as Viacom, Inc., and sued as the successor-by-merger to
CBS Corporation, formerly known as Westinghouse Electric Corporation (“CBS”) (id. ¶ 4); (iii)
Conopco, Inc., doing business as Unilever United States, Inc., and sued both individually, and, as
successor-by-merger to Helene Curtis Industries, Inc. (“Conopco”) (id. ¶ 5); (iv) Consolidated
Aluminum Corporation, also known as Conlaco, Inc. (“Consolidated Aluminum”) (id. ¶ 6); (v) Dana
Companies LLC, sued both individually, and, as successor-in-interest to Victor Gasket
Manufacturing Company (“Dana”) (id. ¶ 7); (vi) Ford Motor Company (“Ford”) (id. ¶ 8); and (vii)
Unilever United States, Inc., sued both individually, and, as successor-by-merger to Helene Curtis
Industries, Inc. (“Unilever”) (id. ¶ 11).
Doc. no. 1 (Complaint), ¶ 9.
The following defendants were dismissed in accordance with stipulations of dismissal filed
by Mrs. Bobo and the defendants noted: doc. no. 18 (Ford); doc. no. 19 (Order Dismissing Ford);
doc. no. 44 (AGCO); doc. no. 45 (Order Dismissing AGCO); doc. no. 47 (Conopco and Unilever);
doc. no. 48 (Order Dismissing Conopco and Unilever); doc. no. 53 (Consolidated Aluminum); doc.
no. 56 (Order Dismissing Consolidated Aluminum); doc. no. 60 (CBS); doc. no. 61 (Order
Mrs. Bobo departed this life about fifteen months after filing suit,6 but her
claims were not extinguished by death and survived in favor of her daughters, who
were appointed co-personal representatives of their mother’s estate by the Probate
Court of Lauderdale County, Alabama.7 A timely motion to substitute them as
plaintiffs was granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 25(a)(1).8 The
case thereafter proceeded to a bench trial on plaintiffs’ claim that their deceased
mother had contracted malignant plural mesothelioma as a result of negligence on the
part of the Tennessee Valley Authority.9 Following consideration of the parties’
pleadings, pre-trial evidentiary submissions, trial testimony and exhibits, briefs, and
Dismissing CBS); doc. no. 62 (Dana); doc. no. 64 (Order Dismissing Dana Companies); doc. no. 78
(MetLife); doc. no. 79 (Order Dismissing MetLife).
See, e.g., doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 10.
See Ala. Code § 6-5-462 (1975) (“In all proceedings not of an equitable nature, all claims
upon which an action has been filed and all claims upon which no action has been filed on a contract,
express or implied, and all personal claims upon which an action has been filed, except for injuries
to the reputation, survive in favor of and against personal representatives; and all personal claims
upon which no action has been filed survive against the personal representative of a deceased
tort-feasor.”); doc. no. 178-1 (Letters Testamentary, In re Estate of Barbara J. Bobo, Case No.
20091, Probate Court for Lauderdale County, Alabama).
See doc. no. 178 (Plaintiff’s Unopposed Motion to Substitute Party), and doc. no. 179
(Order Granting Motion to Substitute Party).
See doc. no. 174 (Memorandum Opinion and Order), at 56 (permitting the case to proceed
on the claim that TVA was negligent in one or more of the following respects: (1) TVA violated
Occupation Safety and Health Administration regulations concerning permissible levels of asbestos
exposure; (2) TVA failed to follow mandatory directives governing the monitoring of an employee’s
exposure to asbestos; (3) TVA failed to provide employees who were exposed to airborne asbestos
fibers protective clothing and equipment, as well as separate locker rooms and shower facilities; and
(4) TVA failed to administer annual medical examinations to employees exposed to airborne
arguments of counsel, this court observed that the outcome of plaintiffs’ claims turns
upon, and will be controlled by, two unsettled questions of Alabama tort law.
Certification by a federal court of questions of state law is permitted under
Article VI, § 6.02(b)(3) of the 1901 Alabama Constitution, as amended,10 and
Alabama Rule of Appellate Procedure 18, providing, in pertinent part, as follows:
(a) When Certified. When it shall appear to a court of the United
States that there are involved in any proceeding before it questions or
propositions of law of this State which are determinative of said cause
and that there are no clear controlling precedents in the decisions of the
Supreme Court of this State, such federal court may certify such
questions or propositions of law of this State to the Supreme Court of
Alabama for instructions concerning such questions or propositions of
state law, which certified question the Supreme Court of this State, by
written opinion, may answer.
(c) Method of Invoking Rule. The provisions of this rule may
be invoked by any of the federal courts upon its own motion or upon the
suggestion or motion of any interested party when approved by such
Ala. R. App. P. 18.
Moreover, the Eleventh Circuit has observed that, whenever there is
“substantial doubt about a question of state law upon which a case turns,” the issue
“should be resolved by certifying the question to the state supreme court. Resolution
Article VI of the 1901 Alabama Constitution was amended in 1973 to include the following
provision: “The supreme court shall have original jurisdiction . . . to answer questions of state law
certified by a court of the United States.” 1901 Ala. Const. art. VI, amend. 328, § 6.02(b)(3) (1973).
in this way avoids the unnecessary practice of guessing the outcome under state law
and offers the state court an opportunity to explicate state law.” Jones v. Dillard’s,
Inc., 331 F.3d 1259, 1268 (11th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted); see also, e.g.,
Sultenfuss v. Snow, 35 F.3d 1494, 1504 (11th Cir. 1994) (en banc) (Carnes, J.,
dissenting) (“Only through certification can federal courts [obtain] definitive answers
to unsettled state law questions. Only a state supreme court can provide what we can
be assured are ‘correct’ answers to state law questions, because a state’s highest court
is the one true and final arbiter of state law.”) (alteration supplied).
For all of the foregoing reasons, this court concludes that it is advisable to
certify to the Alabama Supreme Court the question of the scope of duty owed by
premises owners to non-employees for hazards created at the workplace, and the
question of the appropriate causation standard when a plaintiff’s injury is the result
of multiple exposures to a toxic agent, such as asbestos. There are no clear,
controlling precedents in the decisions of the Alabama Supreme Court on these
issues, and their significance extends beyond the present case.
I. CERTIFICATION FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA PURSUANT TO
ARTICLE VI, § 6.02(b)(3) OF THE ALABAMA CONSTITUTION OF 1901,
AND RULE 18 OF THE ALABAMA RULES OF APPELLATE
TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF ALABAMA AND THE
HONORABLE JUSTICES THEREOF:
In order to assist the Justices of the Alabama Supreme Court in their
consideration of the certified questions, and in accordance with Alabama Rule of
Appellate Procedure 18,11 the following post-trial findings of fact are provided.12
Barbara Wear Bobo was born on March 3, 1942, and lived with her father,
Clifton Wear, on the family farm until she married James “Neal” Bobo on September
28, 1964.13 The couple purchased a home in Florence, Alabama, in 1965.14 James
Bobo died on September 7, 1997,15 from lung cancer induced by asbestosis16 — “a
form of pneumoconiosis (silicatosis) caused by inhaling fibers of asbestos,” and
“associated with pleural mesothelioma.”17 Mrs. Bobo did not remarry following the
See Ala. R. App. P. 18(d) (“The certificate provided for herein shall contain the style of
the case, a statement of facts showing the nature of the cause and the circumstances out of which the
questions or propositions of law arise and the question of law to be answered.”).
The following findings of fact were derived from the parties’ pleadings, pre-trial
evidentiary submissions, trial testimony and exhibits, briefs, and arguments of counsel.
Doc. no. 83-1 (Barbara Bobo’s Sept. 25, 2012 Deposition), at 11; doc. no. 201 (Agreed and
Stipulated Facts), ¶¶ 5, 12(b).
Doc. no. 123 (Barbara Bobo’s May 30, 2013 Deposition), at 16; doc. no. 201 (Agreed and
Stipulated Facts), ¶ 6.
Doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 9.
See Trial Transcript, Day 1, at 181 (ll 9-14); doc. no. 145-3 (James Bobo Deposition) at
Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary 161 (30th ed. 2003) (defining the term asbestosis
as meaning “a form of pneumoconiosis (silicatosis) caused by inhaling fibers of asbestos, marked
by interstitial fibrosis of the lung varying in extent from minor involvement of the basal areas to
extensive scarring; it is associated with pleural mesothelioma and bronchogenic carcinoma”).
death of her husband, and continued to live in the same home she had shared with Mr.
Bobo until her own death.18 She was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma
in November of 2011, and died as a result of that disease on September 7, 2013,19 the
sixteenth anniversary of her husband’s death. She then was 71 years of age.20
The Tennessee Valley Authority (“TVA” or “the Authority”) is a
constitutionally authorized instrumentality of the United States created pursuant to
the Tennessee Valley Authority Act of 1933, 16 U.S.C. § 831 et seq. (“the TVA
Act”), which broadly charges the Authority with the accomplishment of several
important missions, including: improving navigability on the Tennessee River and
any of its tributaries; flood control; reforestation; improvement of marginal lands; and
agricultural and industrial development of the region served by TVA,21 an area that
was particularly affected by the Great Depression, and which covers most of
Tennessee, portions of Alabama, Mississippi, and Kentucky, and small slices of
Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia.
See doc. no. 83-1 (Barbara Bobo’s Sept. 25, 2012 Deposition), at 16-17, 29-30; doc. no.
201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶¶ 9-10.
Doc. no. 178 (Motion to Substitute Party); doc. no. 179 (Order Granting Motion to
Substitute Party); doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 10.
Doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 67.
See 16 U.S.C. § 831n and § 831n-4. See also, e.g., doc. no. 207 (Agreed and Stipulated
Facts), ¶ 12.
To assist in the accomplishment of its Congressionally-mandated purposes, the
TVA Act specifically authorizes the Authority “to acquire real estate for the
construction of dams, reservoirs, transmission lines, power houses, and other
structures, and navigation projects at any point along the Tennessee River, or any of
its tributaries,”22 and “[t]o produce, distribute, and sell electric power.”23 All real
property acquired by TVA for the purpose of accomplishing its statutory purposes is
held “in the name of the United States of America,” and is “entrusted to [TVA] as the
agent of the United States to accomplish the purposes of the [TVA Act].”24
The Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant located on the North shore of the Tennessee
River near Athens, in Limestone County, Alabama, is one of the properties owned by
the United States and entrusted to TVA for management and operational control.25
The Browns Ferry facility was the Authority’s first nuclear power plant, and the
largest in the world when it began operation in 1974. It also was the first nuclear
plant in the world to generate more than one billion watts of power.26 The plant’s
16 U.S.C. § 831c(i).
16 U.S.C. § 831d(l) (alteration supplied). See also 16 U.S.C.A. § 831h-1; doc. no. 207
(Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 13.
16 U.S.C. § 831c(h) (alterations supplied). See also doc. no. 207 (Agreed and Stipulated
Facts), ¶ 14.
Doc. no. 207 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 15; doc. no. 31 (TVA Answer), ¶ 10.
TVA intended to construct seventeen nuclear reactors during the decade of the 1950s and
‘60s, but finished only five. The plans for the Browns Ferry facility were approved by the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission on June 17, 1966; construction began in September of that year; and it
began operation in 1974. See, e.g., http://www.tva.gov/sites/brownsferry.htm (last visited June 11,
three operating units are General Electric boiling water reactors. They produce
electricity by splitting uranium atoms, and the heat generated by that process boils
water, producing steam that is piped to turbines, which spin generators to produce
James Bobo’s Employment History and Exposure to Asbestos
Barbara Bobo’s husband, James “Neal” Bobo, was employed as a machine
operator at the Alabama Wire Plant in Florence, Alabama for about ten years between
1965 and April 15, 1975, the date on which he was hired by TVA.28 During that
period, he was exposed to several products containing asbestos: e.g., Careytemp
asbestos-containing pipe covering, insulating cement, and block insulation;29 GAF
Building Materials Corporation asbestos-containing pipe covering, insulating cement,
2015). As of 2015, TVA operated six reactors at three sites: Browns Ferry, the subject of this action
(three nuclear reactor units); Sequoyah, in Soddy-Daisy, Tenn. (two nuclear reactor units); and Watts
Bar, near Spring City, Tenn. (one existing nuclear reactor unit, but a second unit is under
construction). Together, those plants contribute about 6,600 megawatts of electricity to the power
grid, and about 30% of TVA’s power supply. Those plants alone make enough electricity to power
more than three million homes in the Tennessee Valley, thereby making the “Nuclear Power Group”
an integral part of TVA’s seven-state power system.
See http://www.tva.com/power/nuclear/index.htm (last visited June 11, 2015).
See, e.g., http://www.tva.gov/sites/brownsferry.htm (last visited June 11, 2015).
Doc. no. 123 (Barbara Bobo’s May 30, 2013 Deposition), at 52-70.
Doc. no. 123-2 (Barbara Bobo Declaration in Support of Exposure to Celotex Corporation
Asbestos Containing Products), ¶ 4; doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶¶ 16-17.
and block insulation;30 H.K. Porter asbestos-containing cloth;31 Kaiser Aluminum &
Chemical Corporation asbestos-containing block insulation;32 Keene Corporation
asbestos-containing pipe covering, insulating cement, and block insulation;33 and
James Bobo was employed by TVA as either a temporary or annual employee
for more than twenty-two years, from April 15, 1975 until September 7, 1997,35 which
also was the date of his death from lung cancer induced by asbestosis.36 He worked
primarily in the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant.37 Products and materials that contained
Doc. no. 123-3 (Barbara Bobo Declaration in Support of Exposure to GAF Building
Materials Corporation Asbestos Related Products), ¶ 4; doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts),
Doc. no. 123-4 (Barbara Bobo Declaration in Support of Exposure to H.K. Porter Asbestos
Related Products), ¶ 4; doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 17.
Doc. no. 123-5 (Barbara Bobo Declaration in Support of Exposure to Kaiser Aluminum
& Chemical Corporation Asbestos Related Products), ¶ 4; doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated
Facts), ¶ 17.
Doc. no. 123-6 (Barbara Bobo Declaration in Support of Exposure to Keene Corporation
Asbestos Related Products), ¶ 4; doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 17.
Doc. no. 123-7 (Barbara Bobo Declaration in Support of Exposure to Raymark Asbestos
Related Products), ¶ 4; doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 17.
Doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 28; doc. no. 83-3 (Exhibits to Priscilla
Carthen Deposition), at ECF 24. “ECF” is an acronym formed from the initial letters of the name
of a filing system that allows parties to file and serve documents electronically (i.e., “Electronic Case
Filing”). Bluebook Rule 7.1.4 allows citation to page numbers generated by the ECF header. The
Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, at 21 (Columbia Law Review Ass’n et al. eds., 19th ed.
2010). Even so, the Bluebook recommends against citation to ECF pagination in lieu of original
pagination. Consequently, unless stated otherwise, this court will cite to the original pagination in
the parties’ pleadings. When the court cites to pagination generated by the ECF header, it will, as
here, precede the page number with the letters “ECF.”
Doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 9.
Doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 28; doc. no. 83-3 (Exhibits to Priscilla
asbestos fibers (e.g., thermal pipe coverings, insulation, roofing cement, packing
materials, and gasket packing materials) were present throughout that facility.38 Even
so, there is no record of air monitoring measurements demonstrating either the fact
of Mr. Bobo’s exposure to airborne asbestos fibers during his TVA employment, or
the extent of any such exposure in some measurable units.39
While working for TVA, Mr. Bobo held at various times job positions
classified as “laborer,” “dual rate laborer foreman,” and “laborer foreman.”40 He
never held jobs classified as either “asbestos worker” or “insulator.”41 His duties
while working as a laborer included, among other things, general clean-up work, tool
decontamination, and packing and storing of radiological wastes.42 Moreover, Mr.
Bobo was often directed to assist TVA employees who installed (or removed)
insulation materials that were made from (or that contained) asbestos.43 Occasionally,
he would assist the insulators in such work, but more often than not he was directed
Carthen Deposition), at ECF 24.
Doc. no. 175 (Answer to First Amended Complaint), ¶ 10; doc. no. 201 (Agreed and
Stipulated Facts), ¶ 31; doc. no. 83-2 (James Bobo Deposition), at 34-35. TVA’s Safety Manual
noted that asbestos thermal insulation was used at the plant, and that “[e]xposures occure[d] during
application and removal of insulation.” Doc. no. 91-1, at ECF 5 (alterations supplied).
Doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 32.
Id. ¶ 33.
Id. ¶ 34.
Id. ¶ 35.
Doc. no. 83-2 (James Bobo Deposition), at 36.
to clean up after the insulators had completed their duties by sweeping insulation
residue that had fallen to the floor.44 The act of sweeping generated airborne “dust”
containing asbestos fibers.45 Additionally, Mr. Bobo was often present when
insulators mixed refractory cement that contained asbestos fibers:46 a process that
also generated airborne contaminants.
Mr. Bobo worked at various times in parts of the nuclear facility that contained
radiologically contaminated materials: areas that were referred to in this record as “C
-Zones.”47 Whenever Mr. Bobo did so, he was required to wear protective clothing
and equipment to prevent or mitigate exposure to radiation.48 Whenever Mr. Bobo
swept insulation residue that was not within a C-Zone, however, he wore only his
personal clothing and no over-garment protective coverings,49 even though such gear
would have prevented airborne asbestos fibers from adhering to and contaminating
Id. at 36-38. Laborers cleaned up the insulation residue using brooms, rags, and mops.
Doc. no. 83-4 (Jimmy Myhan Deposition), at 60.
Doc. no. 83-2 (James Bobo Deposition), at 34, 100, 109; doc. no. 83-4 (Jimmy Myhan
Deposition), at 61.
Doc. no. 83-2 (James Bobo Deposition), at 144-45, 147.
Doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 36.
Id. ¶ 37 (“Mr. Bobo was required to wear over-garment protection while working in CZones for purposes of preventing personal radiological contamination.”). See also, e.g., U.S. Dept.
of Health & Human Services website on “Radiation Emergency Medical Management,” found at
http://www.remm.nlm.gov/radiation_ppe.htm (last visited June 12, 2015). The term contamination
refers to particles of radioactivity deposited where they are not supposed to be. See, e.g.,
Trial Transcript, Day 2, at 13-16.
his personal clothing.50 Mr. Bobo’s clothes were always clean when he left for work
in the morning, but usually “pretty dirty” when he returned home in the evening.51
Jimmy Myhan was a TVA employee at Browns Ferry from March 16, 1976
until October 1, 1993, except for a two-year time period between October 1978 and
August 1980 when Myhan left TVA for other employment.52 Mr. Myhan testified
that, during both periods that he and James Bobo worked together — i.e., 1976-78,
and 1980 through the mid-to-late 1980s — Mr. Bobo worked at least once each week
in a C-Zone, but at all other times he worked in one of the three units of the Nuclear
Plant where he cleaned up white pipe insulation.53 Mr. Myhan’s description of the
pipe insulation as “white” in color is significant, because heat-absorbing materials
made from (or containing) asbestos fibers generally are “white” in color. For
example, Frank Mecke testified that the contractor he worked for during construction
of the Browns Ferry facility (“Shook & Fletcher”) installed all insulation in the Unit
1 reactor,54 and that insulating materials made from (or containing) asbestos fibers
Doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 38.
Trial Transcript, Day 2, at 28-29, 136-37.
Doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶¶ 29-30.
Trial Transcript, Day 2, at 11-16.
The operating license for the Unit 1 reactor was issued by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory
Commission on Dec. 20, 1973, and a renewal license issued on May 4, 2006. The current licence
is due to expire on Dec. 20, 2033. See http://www.nrc.gov/info-finder/reactor/bf1.html (last visited
June 12, 2015).
were white in color.55 In like manner, Steven Brown, Director of Maintenance at the
Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant, testified that all asbestos insulation removed during
abatement procedures was white in color, and that he encountered asbestos insulation
throughout the nuclear plant on a daily basis.56 Indeed, TVA’s own documentation
confirms that asbestos insulation was used pervasively throughout the Browns Ferry
facility, including the three reactor units in which Mr. Bobo worked.
A list of TVA employee fatalities shows that, in 1977, a labor foreman (a job
position sometimes held by Mr. Bobo) died of asbestosis, and an electrician foreman
died of mesothelioma.57 A 1978 internal memo notes that an evaluation of the
Browns Ferry insulator shop revealed that the atmosphere in the shop contained
airborne asbestos fibers.58
A 1979 evaluation of TVA facilities by the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration noted that “asbestos exposure at numerous power plants” was one of
“[a] number of recognized and documented hazards within TVA [that] have been
known to exist for years [but which] still [had] not [been] abated.”59
A 1980 draft of TVA’s “Hazard Control Standard 407” for Asbestos allowed
Trial Transcript, Day 1, at 163-67.
Trial Transcript, Day 3, at 12-13, 21.
Plaintiff Exhibit 531, at 5.
Plaintiff Exhibit 530.
Plaintiff Exhibit 531, at 45 (alterations supplied).
the purchase of asbestos insulation if no suitable substitute existed. It also required
non-asbestos materials to be designated as such, and required warning signs to be
posted in areas where airborne asbestos fiber concentrations might exceed the
permissible exposure level.60
A 1988 “Asbestos Control Program Review Report” stated that “all insulation
(usually gray) is [to be] treated as asbestos unless bulk sample analysis indicates
otherwise,” and noted that “insulation containing asbestos was sometimes substituted
in some areas being insulated with asbestos-free insulation during construction.”61
Even though air monitoring measurements were usually obtained after wet
methods had eliminated most of the airborne dust, elevated levels of asbestos fibers
still were detected in every reactor unit of the plant.62 Moreover, even though nonasbestos “mineral wool” was sometimes used during construction of the Browns
Ferry Plant, it was covered (encased) with asbestos mud and asbestos cloth.63
The preponderance of the evidence presented at trial established that a
significant quantity of asbestos fibers accumulated on the clothing worn by Mr. Bobo
when he swept insulation residue in the non-C-Zone areas of Browns Ferry.
Plaintiff Exhibit 533, at 3, 9.
Plaintiff Exhibit 536, at 4 (alteration supplied).
Plaintiff Exhibit 543; Trial Transcript, Day 2, at 57-59.
Trial Transcript, Day 1, at 164.
Barbara Bobo’s Exposures to Asbestos Originating in Sources Other Than
TVA’s Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant
Although Barbara Bobo, like many Americans over the age of sixty, probably
was exposed to products containing some amount of asbestos at various times
throughout her life,64 plaintiffs’ counsel admitted that she experienced nonoccupational exposures to asbestos during the eleven-year period that her husband
was employed as a machine operator at the Alabama Wire Plant through laundering
his work clothes and traveling in the family car.65 Her exposures during that period,
however, occurred 35 to 45 years before the date on which she was diagnosed as
suffering from malignant pleural mesothelioma.66
In addition, Mrs. Bobo worked as a beautician for various employers from
approximately 1976 through 1983, when she opened her own beauty salon in a
building adjacent to the home she and James Bobo shared.67 From then until 2011,
she worked as a self-employed beautician under the trade name of “Barbara’s Beauty
For example, it was alleged in the complaints that Barbara Bobo probably was exposed to
asbestos during the decades of the 1940s and 1950s as a result of “observing her Father[, Clifton
Wear,] who worked as a a farmer, performing maintenance to his tractors” and, as a consequence,
she “was exposed to asbestos-containing friction products . . . .” Doc. no. 1 (Complaint), ¶ 12(b)
(alteration supplied), and doc. no. 171 (Amended Complaint), ¶ 12(b) (same).
Doc. no. 123 (Barbara Bobo’s May 30, 2013 Deposition), at 52-70; doc. no. 201 (Agreed
and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 18.
Doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 21.
Doc. no. 123 (Barbara Bobo’s May 30, 2013 Deposition), at 16; doc. no. 201 (Agreed and
Stipulated Facts), ¶ 7.
Shop.”68 During the thirty-five or so years that Mrs. Bobo was employed as a
beautician, she generally worked five and a half days each week, with a typical work
day of eight hours.69 Mrs. Bobo used stationary hair driers on her patrons 25 to 30
times each day, and she inhaled dust particles while doing so.70 She also cleaned hair
dryer filters on a monthly basis: a maintenance procedure that involved removing,
cleaning, and reinserting the filters.71 Mrs. Bobo also inhaled dust while performing
Barbara Bobo’s Exposures to Asbestos Originating in TVA’s Browns
Ferry Nuclear Plant
Plaintiffs contend that their deceased mother’s exposure to airborne asbestos
fibers from those sources sketched in the preceding section was not significant in
comparison to the quantity to which she was subjected through her practice of
laundering her husband’s work clothes over the course of the twenty-two years that
he was employed by TVA.73 The washroom located in the center of the Bobo home
Doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 19.
Doc. no. 83-1 (Barbara Bobo’s Sept. 25, 2012 Deposition), at 28, 31; doc. no. 201 (Agreed
and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 20.
Doc. no. 83-1 (Barbara Bobo’s Sept. 25, 2012 Deposition), at 26-28; doc. no. 201 (Agreed
and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 20.
Doc. no. 83-1 (Barbara Bobo’s Sept. 25, 2012 Deposition), at 29; doc. no. 201 (Agreed
and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 20.
Doc. no. 83-1 (Barbara Bobo’s Sept. 25, 2012 Deposition), at 29-30; doc. no. 201 (Agreed
and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 20.
See doc. no. 171 (First Amended Complaint), ¶ 12; doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated
Facts), ¶¶ 22, 39.
was small: its floor dimensions were only about four feet by five feet (20 square
feet).74 Mrs. Bobo washed her husband’s clothes twice each week, but her daily
practice was to pick-up the dirty clothing that he had removed at the end of the
preceding work day, carry those articles into the washroom, shut the door, empty the
pockets, shake the clothing to remove loose dirt particles, and place the items into the
washing machine.75 Mrs. Bobo recalled inhaling “dust” while performing those
actions:76 that is, she described the atmosphere of the laundry room as “[f]oggy,” but
said that she “just thought it was dust.”77 She also dry-swept the washroom floor with
a small broom and dustpan prior to mopping it, and said that the air became dusty
when doing so.78 Mrs. Bobo had no knowledge that the “dust” on her husband’s work
clothing or the floor of her washroom contained asbestos fibers, and her home was
never tested for the presence of that substance.79
Dr. Eugene Mark, plaintiffs’ expert, reviewed depositions, medical records, and
Doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶¶ 23-24; doc. no. 83-1 (Barbara Bobo’s Sept.
25, 2012 Deposition), at 18.
Doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 24; doc. no. 83-1 (Barbara Bobo’s Sept. 25,
2012 Deposition), at 19.
Doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 25; doc. no. 83-1 (Barbara Bobo’s Sept. 25,
2012 Deposition), at 20.
Doc. no. 83-1 (Barbara Bobo’s Sept. 25, 2012 Deposition), at 19 (alteration supplied).
Doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 26; doc. no. 83-1 (Barbara Bobo’s Sept. 25,
2012 Deposition), at 20.
Doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 40; doc. no. 83-1 (Barbara Bobo’s Sept. 25,
2012 Deposition), at 41-42; doc. no. 51 (Plaintiff’s Answer to Interrogatories), at 3.
other file materials, and testified that Mrs. Bobo was exposed to asbestos by
laundering her husband’s clothes twice each week for more than twenty-two years.80
He also testified that studies in scientific literature that are generally accepted as
authoritative in the field link mesothelioma to asbestos exposure from laundering the
clothes of a person who works with asbestos.81 One study relied upon by Dr. Mark
(an article by Gunnar Hillerdal entitled “Mesothelioma Cases Associated with NonOccupational and Low-Dose Exposures”) reported that asbestos fiber concentrations
in domestic exposure cases might be as high as in occupation exposure cases.82 The
same study reported that “[o]rdinary vacuum cleaning is not effective in removing
asbestos fibers, which can remain for years in the house and be airborne again
whenever disturbed. Thus, domestic exposure is not low exposure.”83 Dr. Mark
concluded, based upon his review of case materials, that Mrs. Bobo’s exposure to
asbestos from her husband’s work at TVA was a substantial factor contributing to the
development of her mesothelioma.84
The Application of Regulations Promulgated by the Occupational Safety
and Health Administration to TVA’s Operations
Trial Transcript, Day 1, at 86.
Id. at 87, 141, 145-51.
Id. at 158.
Id. (alterations supplied).
Id. at 97.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (“the OSH Act”) required
“the head of each Federal agency . . . to establish and maintain an effective and
comprehensive occupational safety and health program which is consistent with the
standards promulgated under section 665” of the Act. 29 U.S.C. § 668(a).85
Executive Order 11,612, promulgated in 1971, observed that, “[a]s the Nation’s
largest employer, the Federal Government has a special obligation to set an example
for safe and healthful employment.” 36 Fed. Reg. 13,891 (July 26, 1971) (alteration
supplied). For that reason, the order required the head of each federal department and
agency to “establish an occupational safety and health program . . . in compliance
with the requirements of . . . section 19(a) of [the OSH Act],” and the programs were
Section 668(a) goes on to mandate that the head of each Federal agency:
(1) provide safe and healthful places and conditions of employment,
consistent with the standards set under section 655 of this title;
(2) acquire, maintain, and require the use of safety equipment, personal
protective equipment, and devices reasonably necessary to protect employees;
(3) keep adequate records of all occupational accidents and illnesses for
proper evaluation and necessary corrective action;
(4) consult with the Secretary with regard to the adequacy as to form and
content of records kept pursuant to subsection (a)(3) of this section; and
(5) make an annual report to the Secretary with respect to occupational
accidents and injuries and the agency's program under this section. Such report shall
include any report submitted under section 7902(e)(2) of Title 5.
29 U.S.C. § 668(a).
required to “be consistent with the standards prescribed by section 6 of [the OSH
Act],” now codified at 29 U.S.C. 668. Id. (alterations supplied).
Yet another Executive Order issued three years later recognized that “even
greater efforts” were needed in order to establish occupational safety and health
programs that were consistent with the standards prescribed by Section 6 of the OSH
Act. Executive Order No. 11,807, recorded at 39 Fed. Reg. 35,559 (Sept. 28, 1974)
(alteration supplied). Thus, this 1974 Executive Order was designed to provide
additional guidance to ensure effective occupational safety and health programs
within executive agencies, and to allow for detailed evaluations of such programs by
the Secretary of the Department of Labor. See id.
It was not until the promulgation of Executive Order 12,196 in February of
1980, however, that federal executive agencies were specifically required to comply
with the regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. See 45
Fed. Reg. 12,769 (Feb. 26, 1980) (providing that the head of each agency must
“[c]omply with all standards issued under section 6 of [the OSH Act]” (alterations
The Evolution of Standards by the Occupational Safety and Health
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) promulgated
an emergency temporary standard for exposure to asbestos fibers under Section 6 of
the OSH Act in 1971 (now codified as 29 U.S.C. § 668). 36 Fed. Reg. 23,207
(December 7, 1971). The temporary standard provided that an employee’s exposure
could “not exceed 5 fibers per milliliter greater than 5 microns in length” per cubic
centimeter of air over an eight-hour, time-weighted average, and could not exceed a
peak concentration level of 10 fibers per milliliter. 36 Fed. Reg. 23,208.86 The
concentration level of airborne asbestos fibers was to be determined by “the
membrane filter method at 400-450x magnification (4 millimeter objective) phase
contrast illumination.” Id.
The exposure limits stated in the 1971 temporary standard became final in
1972, when OSHA notified employers to prepare for the following reductions in
exposure limits that were to take effect, initially, on July 7, 1972, and then be further
reduced four years thereafter, on July 1, 1976:
(b) Permissible exposure to airborne concentrations of asbestos fibers
(1) Standard effective July 7, 1972. The 8-hour time-weighted
average airborne concentrations of asbestos fibers to which any
employee may be exposed shall not exceed five fibers, longer than 5
micrometers, per cubic centimeter of air, as determined by the method
prescribed in paragraph (e) of this section.
The Federal Register notice issued by OSHA announced the creation of 29 C.F.R. §
1910.93a (1971), recodified as 29 C.F.R. § 1910.1001 (1975). The emergency temporary standard
for exposure to asbestos fibers was codified at 29 C.F.R. § 1910.93a(a).
(2) Standard effective July 1, 1976. The 8-hour time-weighted
average air-borne concentrations of asbestos fibers to which any
employee may be exposed shall not exceed two fibers, longer than 5
micrometers, per cubic centimeter of air, as determined by the method
prescribed in paragraph (e) of this section.
(3) Ceiling concentration. No employee shall be exposed at any
given time to airborne concentrations of asbestos fibers in excess of 10
fibers, longer than 5 micrometers, per cubic centimeter of air, as
determined by the method prescribed in paragraph (e) of this section.
29 C.F.R. § 1910.93a(b) (1972), recodified as 29 C.F.R. § 1910.1001 (1975)
Additionally, OSHA laid out requirements for protective equipment and
clothing for employees such as Mr. Bobo, who were exposed to airborne
concentrations of asbestos fibers that exceeded the permissible exposure levels
prescribed in Section 1910.93a(b) above.
(d)(3) Special clothing: The employer shall provide, and require
the use of, special clothing, such as coveralls or similar whole body
clothing, head coverings, gloves, and foot coverings for any employee
exposed to airborne concentrations of asbestos fibers, which exceed the
ceiling level prescribed in paragraph (b) of this section.
(4) Change rooms: (i) At any fixed place of employment
exposed to airborne concentrations of asbestos fibers in excess of the
exposure limits prescribed in paragraph (b) of this section, the employer
shall provide change rooms for employees working regularly at the
At the time OSHA notified employers to prepare for the upcoming reductions in exposure
limits, it also amended 29 C.F.R. § 1910.93a to eliminate the provision containing the temporary
standard. See 37 Fed. Reg. 11,318-20 (June 7, 1972).
(ii) Clothes lockers: The employer shall provide two separate
lockers or containers for each employee, so separated or isolated as to
prevent contamination of the employee’s street clothes from his work
(iii) Laundering: (a) Laundering of asbestos contaminated
clothing shall be done so as to prevent the release of airborne asbestos
fibers in excess of the exposure limits prescribed in paragraph (b) of this
section. . . .
29 C.F.R. § 1910.93a(d) (1972), recodified as 29 C.F.R. § 1910.1001 (1975).
OSHA also mandated a particular method of measuring and monitoring
asbestos concentrations in the air.
(e) Method of measurement. All determinations of airborne
concentrations of asbestos fibers shall be made by the membrane filter
method at 400-450 x (magnification) (4 millimeter objective) with phase
(f) Monitoring — (1) Initial determinations. Within 6 months of
the publication of this section, every employer shall cause every place
of employment where asbestos fibers are released to be monitored in
such a way as to determine whether every employee’s exposure to
asbestos fibers is below the limits prescribed in paragraph (b) of this
section . . . .
(2) Personal monitoring — (i) Samples shall be collected from
within the breathing zone of the employees, on membrane filters of 0.8
micrometer porossity mounted in an open-face filter holder. Samples
shall be taken for the determination of the 8-hour time-weighted average
airborne concentrations and of the ceiling concentrations of asbestos
(ii) Sampling frequency and patterns. After the initial
determinations required by subparagraph (1) of this paragraph, samples
shall be of such frequency and pattern as to represent with reasonable
accuracy the levels of exposure of employees. In no case shall the
sampling be done at intervals greater than 6 months for employees
whose exposure to asbestos may reasonably be foreseen to exceed the
limits prescribed by paragraph (b) of this section.
29 C.F.R. §§ 1910.93a(e)-(f) (1972), recodified as 29 C.F.R. § 1910.1001 (1975).
The 1972 OSHA standard for asbestos exposure further stated that “every
employer shall provide, or make available, comprehensive medical examinations to
each of his employees engaged in occupations exposed to airborne concentrations of
asbestos fibers.” 29 C.F.R. § 1910.93a(j)(3).
TVA’s Internal Policies
TVA has an internal safety organization that is “responsible for establishing
TVA policies and procedures for assuring safe and healthful work conditions for all
employees on TVA properties (TVA safety practices).”88 Such safety practices “are
organized generally into three tiers: agency safety practices established by the TVA
safety organization; business unit safety practices established by major business units
such as nuclear power . . . ; and site specific safety practices established by local
facilities such as Browns Ferry . . . .”89 Further, many of those safety practices
address specific standards relating to the use of asbestos at TVA properties.90
Doc. no. 68 (Jeter Affidavit), ¶ 2.
Id. ¶ 3 (alterations supplied); doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 44.
Doc. no. 68 (Jeter Affidavit), ¶ 4; doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 45.
TVA Hazard Control Standard 407
TVA adopted “Hazard Control Standard 407” for asbestos on April 15, 1974.91
Paragraph 1.0 of that standard applied “primarily, but not exclusively, to operations
where asbestos or insulating material containing asbestos is handled, mixed, sprayed,
applied, removed, cut, or scored.”92 Paragraph 4.1.2 listed materials that might
contain asbestos: e.g., heat insulating materials; fireproofing materials; transite;93
limpet fibers;94 calcium silicate block and pipe insulation;95 asbestos cement, mortars,
wire covers, grouting, paper, blankets, tape, and plaster; and vehicle brake linings.96
Paragraph 4.3 prescribed the permissible exposure levels for airborne concentrations
of asbestos fibers:
Doc. no. 68 (Jeter Affidavit), ¶ 4; see also Plaintiffs’ Exhibit 528 (TVA Hazard Control
Standard 407); doc. no. 68-1 (Same).
Plaintiffs’ Exhibit 528 (TVA Hazard Control Standard 407), at 1 (alteration supplied).
“Transite” originated as a trade name for a line of asbestos-cement products, but over time,
it became a generic term for “a hard, fireproof composite material” and “fiber cement boards” that
were frequently used in wall construction. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transite (last visited
June 11, 2015).
“Limpet” is a mixture of cement and asbestos, and it was often used in a spray-form.
Geoffrey Tweedale, 5.8 Limpet Asbestos: Spraying Ill-Health World-Wide, World Asbestos Report,
http://worldasbestosreport.org/conferences/gac/gac2000/A5_8~182.pdf (last visited June 11, 2015).
It was often used for insulation, sound-proofing, fireproofing, and condensation control. Id.
Calcium silicate is used to insulate high-temperature pipes and equipment and for fire
endurance applications. It is manufactured and sold in three different forms: preformed block,
preformed pipe, and board. Calcium silicate evolved about 1950 from earlier high-temperature
thermal insulations: 85-percent magnesium carbonate and pure asbestos insulation. At first, calcium
silicate insulation was typically reinforced with asbestos fibers. By the end of 1972, however, most
North American manufacturers had switched to glass fiber, plant fibers, cotton linters, or rayon. See,
e.g., http://www.insulation.org/articles/article.cfm?id=IO080904 (last visited June 17, 2015).
See Plaintiffs’ Exhibit 528 (TVA Hazard Control Standard 407), at 2.
4.3.1 The 8-hour time-weighted average airborne concentration of
asbestos fibers to which an employee may be exposed shall not
exceed five fibers, each longer than five micrometers, per cubic
centimeter of air. (On July 1, 1976, the permissible concentration
for asbestos will be reduced from five fibers to two fibers, each
longer than five micrometers, per cubic centimeter of air.)
4.3.2 An employee shall not be exposed for any length of time to
airborne concentrations of asbestos fibers in excess of the ceiling
limit of 10 fibers, each longer than five micrometers, per cubic
centimeter of air without appropriate personal protective
equipment as described in paragraph 4.5 of this standard.97
Paragraph 4.4 provided instructions on the proper use of asbestos products:
4.4.1 Engineering controls, except when technically not feasible, shall
be utilized to ensure that each individual working with or near
materials containing asbestos is not exposed to concentrations of
asbestos dust in excess of the permissible limits. Administrative
controls shall be used only if engineering controls are not
4.4.2 When both respiratory protection and control of exposure time are
practicable, control of exposure time shall be used. The
permissible exposure time can be determined by allowing a
precalculated length of exposure to airborne concentrations of
asbestos above the permissible concentration (but in no case,
above the ceiling limit), followed by a comparable period of no
exposure. Accurate records of exposure times and airborne
asbestos concentrations shall be maintained.
4.4.3 Asbestos and materials containing asbestos shall be handled,
mixed, applied, removed, cut, scored, or otherwise used in a wet
state (except where impracticable or where the usefulness of the
product would be diminished) to prevent airborne concentrations
Id. at 2-3.
of asbestos fibers in excess of the permissible limits . . . .98
Paragraph 4.5 defined the requirements for personal protective equipment:
4.5.1 The use of respiratory protection for controlling employee
exposure to asbestos shall be limited to the following conditions:
Prior to implementation of engineering controls or work
methods designed to maintain airborne asbestos
concentrations within the permissible limits required by
paragraph 4.3 of this standard.
Where engineering controls or administrative controls are
technically not feasible.
In emergency situations.
Prior to determining the airborne concentrations of
asbestos in a work environment.
4.5.2 Employees exposed to airborne concentrations of asbestos fibers
greater than the ceiling limit shall be provided with and required
to use personal protective equipment to protect the eyes, head,
hands, feet, and trunk from asbestos . . . . Protective clothing shall
be utilized for exposures of undetermined concentrations until it
has been proven by tests that the activity will not produce
concentrations above the ceiling limits.99
Paragraph 4.6.2 contained standards for changing rooms, and stated that
“[e]ach employee exposed to airborne concentrations of asbestos in excess of the
ceiling limit shall be provided with two separate lockers or containers so separated
or isolated to prevent contamination of the employee’s street clothes from his work
Id. at 3 (emphasis supplied).
Id. at 3-5 (emphasis supplied).
Paragraph 4.7 established requirements for “Personal and Environmental
Monitoring,” and provided that:
Initial and continuing monitoring shall be performed by the TVA Hazard
Control Branch which will quantitatively determine airborne asbestos
fiber concentration in the breathing zone of exposed employees, and in
areas of a work environment which are representative of airborne
concentrations which may reach the breathing zone of employees.
Eight-hour time-weighted average and ceiling concentrations shall be
determined. Such evaluations shall be accomplished at least
semiannually and shall represent with reasonable accuracy the levels of
exposure of employees.101
TVA also was required to “maintain records of personal monitoring and
Paragraph 4.9, addressed the subject of “Housekeeping,” and provided that “the
use of air jets or dry sweeping to clean up asbestos accumulations is prohibited.”103
Finally, Paragraph 4.10.2 mandated that “[e]mployees exposed to airborne
concentrations of asbestos fibers shall receive an annual medical examination.”104
Significantly, records of those medical examinations were required to be retained by
Plaintiffs’ Exhibit 528 (TVA Hazard Control Standard 407), at 5 (alteration and emphasis
Id. at 5 (emphasis supplied).
Id. at 6.
Id. (alteration supplied).
TVA for twenty years.105
TVA nuclear power safety and hazard control manual
TVA’s Nuclear Power Division adopted a safety and hazard control manual on
May 8, 1978.106 The threshold limit for airborne asbestos concentrations under the
standards of that manual was “five fibers per cubic centimeter, greater than five
micrometers in length.”107 Requirement number 4 specified that “[e]mployees
exposed to airborne concentrations of asbestos shall wear an approved respirator and
protective coveralls . . . .”108 Additionally, Requirement number 12 mandated that
“[e]ach employee exposed to airborne concentrations of asbestos shall be provided
with two separate lockers. One locker shall be used for street clothes and must not
be contaminated with asbestos.”109
Browns Ferry internal plant standards
A 1979 Browns Ferry internal plant memo stated, in a manner consistent with
the language of the Nuclear Power Division manual quoted in the preceding section,
See Plaintiffs’ Exhibit 529 (Division of Nuclear Power Safety and Hazard Control
Manual); doc. no. 86-4 (Same); doc. no. 68-2 (TVA Asbestos Standards – Browns Ferry Nuclear
Plaintiffs’ Exhibit 529 (Division of Nuclear Power Safety and Hazard Control Manual),
Id. (alteration supplied).
Id. at 2966 (alteration and emphasis supplied).
that “[l]ocker and shower facilities separate from other plant facilities should be
provided for all insulators and designated cleanup laborers.”110
The Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant adopted “Standard Practice 14.45” on October
15, 1980, and established site-specific policies and procedures governing the use of
asbestos and materials that contained asbestos.111 That standard set the threshold limit
value for airborne asbestos concentrations at “five fibers per cubic centimeter, greater
than five micrometers in length.”112 In addition, that standard mandated that
“[e]mployees exposed to airborne concentrations of asbestos shall wear an approved
respirator and protective coveralls . . . .”113 Annual medical examinations were also
mandated for “employees exposed to airborne concentrations of asbestos fibers.”114
Although other requirements in Standard Practice 14.45 applied to “concentrations
of asbestos dust in excess of the permissible limits,” the requirement for respirators
and protective coveralls did not make that distinction.115 In other words, those
requirements applied to any quantity of asbestos exposure.
Plaintiffs’ Exhibit 530 (1979 Browns Ferry Internal Plant Memo) (alteration and emphasis
See Plaintiffs’ Exhibit 534 (Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant Standard Practice 14.45), at 1;
doc. no. 90-2 (Same), at ECF 2; doc. no. 68-2 (TVA Asbestos Standards – Browns Ferry Nuclear
Plaintiffs’ Exhibit 534 (Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant Standard Practice 14.45), at 1.
Id. (alteration supplied).
Id. at 2.
Id. at 1.
1984 TVA memorandum
A 1984 memorandum entitled “TVA Policy on Asbestos” established
“additional requirements to better protect employees from exposure to asbestos
fibers.”116 The first requirement lowered the permissible exposure limit to “no more
than 0.5 fibers, longer than 5 micrometers, per cubic centimeter of air (f/cc) as the
permissible 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) airborne concentration of all forms
of asbestos. The ceiling level will be lowered from 10 f/cc to 5 f/cc.”117 Employees
who could “reasonably be expected to be exposed above a TWA of .1 fiber/cc” were
to be identified, given initial and annual training, and offered medical
TVA’s Response to OSHA Regulations, Policies, and Procedures
The parties stipulated that no statute, regulation, or policy — including the
Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and regulations promulgated thereunder
by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration — imposed a mandatory
requirement that TVA prevent all exposure to airborne asbestos fibers during the
years that James Bobo worked at Browns Ferry.119 In other words, that Act and the
See TVA’s Exhibit 67 (Memorandum by W.F. Willis), at 1; doc. no. 90-3 (Same), at 1;
doc. no. 68-2 (TVA Asbestos Standards – Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant (1975-1985)), at 1.
TVA’s Exhibit 67 (Memorandum by W.F. Willis), at 1.
Id. at 2.
See doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 46 (1st sentence).
regulations promulgated thereunder, as well as TVA’s own internal polices and
procedures, allowed employees to be exposed to airborne asbestos fibers at
concentration levels between zero and the permissible exposure levels in effect on the
date of the occupational exposure.120 Even so, TVA was aware of the regulations
promulgated pursuant to the Occupational Safety and Health Act by the Occupational
Safety and Health Administration.121 As early as 1974, the Authority knew that
airborne asbestos fibers could adhere to an employee’s clothing, and should be
avoided for reasons of health.122 TVA first established an asbestos standard in 1974
as part of its Hazard Control Manual.123 Moreover, as previously discussed in Parts
I.H.1. and I.H.2. of this opinion, supra, TVA’s internal polices required that all
employees exposed to any quantity of airborne asbestos fibers be provided protective
clothing, two separate lockers — one of which was to “be used for street clothes and
must not be contaminated with asbestos”124 — as well as “shower facilities separate
from other plant facilities.”125 Further, TVA was aware that, of nine employee deaths
Id. (2d sentence).
Id. ¶ 48.
Id. ¶ 49.
Id. ¶ 50.
Plaintiffs’ Exhibit 529 (Division of Nuclear Power Safety and Hazard Control Manual
adopted May 8, 1978) at 2966.
Plaintiffs’ Exhibit 530 (1979 Browns Ferry Internal Plant Memo providing that “[l]ocker
and shower facilities separate from other plant facilities should be provided for all insulators and
designated cleanup laborers”) (alteration and emphasis supplied).
that occurred during 1977, one (a labor foreman, the same position once held by
James Bobo) died of asbestosis, and a second (an electrician foreman) died of
mesothelioma.126 Finally, even though insulation materials that were not made of
asbestos began to be used in the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant during the decade of the
1980s (all of which were generally brown or greenish-brown in color),127 asbestos
insulation (generally white in color) remained in use until at least 1991.128
TVA’s industrial hygiene database lists no record of air sampling to determine
concentrations of airborne asbestos fibers prior to October 1979.129
employees at the Browns Ferry Plant were not monitored for asbestos exposure until
at least the early 1980’s.130 A 1979 Browns Ferry internal plant memo recorded
management’s recognition that “TVA and Federal safety and health standards require
that we provide locker and shower facilities for insulators and designated cleanup
laborers that are separate from the plant’s regular facilities.”131
The extent to which employees in the Browns Ferry Plant were exposed to
airborne asbestos fibers was ineffectively and inaccurately determined by means of
Id. ¶ 51; see also Part I.B. of this opinion, supra.
Doc. no. 201 (Agreed and Stipulated Facts), ¶ 53.
Id. ¶ 52.
Id. ¶ 55.
Id. ¶ 56.
Id. ¶ 57.
a visual inspection conducted by supervisory personnel. Notably, however, those
personnel were not provided meaningful criteria to measure the concentration levels
to which employees were exposed.132 Moreover, Browns Ferry supervisors conducted
asbestos air monitoring measurements of only three employees in 1980.133 Only eight
employees were sampled in 1981, and only five in 1982.134 An internal review in
1988 determined that asbestos monitoring “has been very limited and does not meet
the monitoring requirements of the OSHA asbestos standard.”135 Further, TVA did
not provide laborers with protective clothing, separate locker rooms, or separate
shower facilities, unless they were working in a C-Zone.136
Plaintiffs’ negligence claims are based upon the laws of Alabama. That may
seem incongruous in view of the fact that TVA is a constitutionally authorized
instrumentality of the United States. Even so, “the precedents going back over a
hundred and fifty years establish that any claim, even one created by state law,
against a federally created corporation arises under federal law.” Monsanto Co. v.
Trail Transcript, Day 2, at 62-64, 67, 71.
Id. at 65-66. Air monitoring was performed by measuring the number of asbestos fibers
in the air at the work area of the employee. Id. at 57.
Id. at 66.
Plaintiffs’ Exhibit 536, at 7.
See Trial Transcript, Day 2, at 13, 16; Plaintiffs’ Exhibit 530.
Tennessee Valley Authority, 448 F. Supp. 648, 651 (N.D. Ala. 1978) (Wyatt, J.)
(emphasis supplied) (citing Osborn v. Bank of the United States, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.)
738 (1824) (Marshall, C.J.); The Bank of the United States v. Planters Bank of
Georgia, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 904 (1824) (Marshall, C.J.)). See also 28 U.S.C. § 1331
and 16 U.S.C. § 831c-2(a)(1).137
In order to prevail,138 plaintiffs must prove by a preponderance of the evidence
that: TVA owed Mrs. Bobo a duty of reasonable care; TVA breached that duty; Mrs.
Bobo suffered a loss or injury; and, TVA’s breach was the actual and proximate cause
of Mrs. Bobo’s loss or injury. See, e.g., Ford Motor Co. v. Burdeshaw, 661 So. 2d
236, 238 (Ala. 1995); see also, e.g., Sessions v. Nonnenmann, 842 So. 2d 649, 651
(Ala. 2002) (“In [a] premises-liability case, the elements of negligence are the same
as those in any tort litigation: duty, breach of duty, cause in fact, proximate or legal
28 U.S.C. § 1331 is the federal question statute, and provides that district courts have
original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United
States. Section 831c-2(a)(1) of the Tennessee Valley Authority Act provides that:
An action against the Tennessee Valley Authority for injury or loss of
property, or personal injury or death arising or resulting from the negligent or
wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Tennessee Valley Authority while
acting within the scope of this office or employment is exlusive [sic] of any other
civil action or proceeding by reason of the same subject matter against the employee
or his estate whose act or omission gave rise to the claim. Any other civil action or
proceeding arising out of or relating to the same subject matter against the employee
or his estate is precluded without regard to when the act or omission occurred.
16 U.S.C. § 831c-2(a)(1).
See supra note 9.
cause, and damages.”) (quoting Ex parte Harold L. Martin Distributing Co., 769 So.
2d 313, 314 (Ala. 2000) (in turn quoting E.R. Squibb & Sons, Inc. v. Cox, 477 So.2d
963, 969 (Ala.1985)) (alteration in original, internal quotation marks omitted).139
Did TVA Owe Barbara Bobo a Duty of Reasonable Care?
It is black letter Alabama law that, in order for a plaintiff “‘to maintain a
negligence action the defendant must have been subject to a legal duty,’ because
‘where there is no duty, there can be no negligence.’” DiBiasi v. Joe Wheeler Electric
Membership Corp., 988 So. 2d 454, 460 (Ala. 2008) (quoting Thompson v. Mindis
Metals, Inc., 692 So. 2d 805, 807 (Ala. 1997) (in turn quoting Morton v. Prescott, 564
So. 2d 913, 915 (Ala. 1990)), and City of Bessemer v. Brantley, 65 So. 2d 160, 165
(Ala. 1953)). Further, the issue of whether a duty exists is “‘strictly a legal question
to be determined by the court.’” DiBiasi, 988 So. 2d at 460 (quoting Pritchett v. ICN
Medical Alliance, Inc., 938 So. 2d 933, 937 (Ala. 2006) (in turn quoting Taylor v.
Smith, 892 So. 2d 887, 891-92 (Ala. 2004))).
TVA denies that it owed Mrs. Bobo a duty of care.140 And, insofar as this court
In addition to disputing plaintiffs’ proof of the elements of a prima facie negligence claim,
TVA contends that the statute of limitations on plaintiffs’ claims has expired, and that it is shielded
from liability by the so-called “discretionary function doctrine.” However, those issues need not be
addressed until the issues of duty and causation under Alabama law have been settled.
Doc. no. 128 (TVA’s Brief in Support of Summary Judgment), at 1. TVA incorporates
its summary judgment briefing regarding whether TVA owed a duty to Mrs. Bobo. Doc. no. 209
(TVA’s Post-Trial Brief), at 19.
has been able to ascertain, it appears that TVA is correct when asserting that “no
Alabama appellate court has issued an opinion regarding the availability of take-home
claims under Alabama law.”141
Nevertheless, plaintiff argue that the foreseeability of an injury appears to be
the “key factor” in determining whether a duty exists under Alabama law. See, e.g.,
Taylor v. Smith, 892 So. 2d 887, 892 (Ala. 2004), Patrick v. Union State Bank, 681
So. 2d at 1364, 1368 (Ala. 1996). Consequently, plaintiffs contend that the Alabama
Supreme Court probably will join those jurisdictions holding that the employers of
persons exposed to airborne asbestos fibers during the performance of their work
responsibilities owe a duty of reasonable care to non-employees in take-home
asbestos cases based on the foreseeability of injury from any exposure to that
inherently dangerous toxic substance.142 See, e.g., Simpkins v. CSX Corp., 929 N.E.2d
1257, 1263-64 (Ill. App. Ct. 2010) (“[W]e believe that it takes little imagination to
presume that when an employee who is exposed to asbestos brings home his work
clothes, members of his family are likely to be exposed as well. Thus, the general
character of the harm to be prevented was reasonably foreseeable.”) (alteration
Doc. no. 128 (TVA’s Brief in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment), at 20.
Doc. no. 145 (Plaintiffs’ Brief in Opposition to Summary Judgment), at 27-30. Because
TVA incorporated its brief in support of summary judgment, the court will consider plaintiffs’ brief
in opposition to summary judgment.
supplied); Satterfield v. Breeding Insulation Co., 266 S.W.3d 347, 367 (Tenn. 2008)
(holding that the harm to the plaintiff was foreseeable, because she was regularly in
contact with asbestos-contaminated work clothes for extended periods of time); Olivo
v. Owens-Illinois, Inc., 895 A.2d 1143, 1149 (N.J. 2006) (holding that a premises
owner owed a duty to spouses handling the asbestos-contaminated work clothing
based on the foreseeable risk of harm arising from such exposures); Zimko v.
American Cyanamid, 905 So. 2d 465, 483 (La. App. 2005) (same).
TVA disagrees, and argues that the Alabama Supreme Court would not impose
a duty solely upon the basis of the foreseeability of injury, but would — as stated in
previous decisions by that Court — consider additional factors, such as public policy,
social considerations, the nature of the defendant’s activity, the relationship between
the parties, and the type of injury threatened.
“‘In determining whether a duty exists in a given situation . . .
courts should consider a number of factors, including public policy,
social considerations, and foreseeability. The key factor is whether the
injury was foreseeable by the defendant.’” Patrick v. Union State Bank,
681 So. 2d 1364, 1368 (Ala. 1996) (quoting Smitherman v. McCafferty,
622 So. 2d 322, 324 (Ala. 1993)). In addition to foreseeability, Alabama
courts look to a number of factors to determine whether a duty exists,
including “‘(1) the nature of the defendant’s activity; (2) the relationship
between the parties; and (3) the type of injury or harm threatened.’”
Taylor, 892 So. 2d at 892 (quoting Morgan v. South Central Bell
Telephone Co., 466 So. 2d 107, 114 (Ala. 1985)).
DiBiasi v. Joe Wheeler Electric Membership Corp., 988 So. 2d 454, 461 (Ala. 2008)
(emphasis supplied). Pivoting off the foregoing quotation, TVA argues that the
Alabama Supreme Court would follow those jurisdictions that have found, based
upon considerations of public policy, that no legal duty is owed by employers to nonemployees in take-home asbestos-exposure cases. See, e.g., Campbell v. Ford Motor
Co., 141 Cal. Rptr. 3d 390 (Cal. Ct. App. 2012) (concluding that “a property owner
has no duty to protect family members of workers on its premises from secondary
exposure to asbestos used during the course of the property owner’s business”); Kan.
Stat. Ann. § 60-4905(a) (2012) (“No premises owner shall be liable for any injury to
any individual resulting from silica or asbestos exposure unless such individual’s
alleged exposure occurred while the individual was at or near the premises owner’s
property.”); Price v. E.I. DuPont De Nemours & Co., 26 A.3d 162, 170 (Del. 2011)
(holding that there was no legal duty because the plaintiff did not have a “special
relationship” with the premises owner); Boley v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 929
N.E.2d 448, 453 (Ohio 2010) (holding in accordance with an Ohio statute143 that “a
The Ohio statute at issue in the case of Boley v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. provided
(A) The following apply to all tort actions for asbestos claims brought against
a premises owner to recover damages or other relief for exposure to asbestos on the
premises owner's property:
(1) A premises owner is not liable for any injury to any individual
resulting from asbestos exposure unless that individual’s alleged exposure
occurred while the individual was at the premises owner’s property.
premises owner is not liable in tort for claims arising from asbestos exposure
originating from asbestos on the owner’s property, unless the exposure occurred at
the owner’s property”); In re Certified Question from Fourteenth District Court of
Appeals of Texas, 740 N.W.2d 206, 222 (Mich. 2007) (“[W]e hold that, under
Michigan law, defendant, as owner of the property . . . did not owe to the deceased,
who was never on or near that property, a legal duty to protect her from exposure to
any asbestos fibers carried home on the clothing of a member of her household . . .
.”) (alteration supplied); CSX Transportation, Inc. v. Williams, 608 S.E.2d 208, 210
(Ga. 2005) (“[W]e decline to extend on the basis of foreseeability the employer’s duty
beyond the workplace to encompass all who might come into contact with an
employee or an employee’s clothing outside the workplace.”) (alteration supplied);
Adams v. Owens-Illinois, Inc., 705 A.2d 58, 66 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1998) (holding
that a steel company did not owe a duty of care to an employee’s wife to maintain a
safe workplace for its employees); In re Eighth Judicial District Asbestos Litigation,
12 Misc.3d 936, 941, 815 N.Y.S.2d 815, 821 (Erie Co. N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2006) (holding
that employer did not owe duty of care to spouse of employee who contracted
mesothelioma as a result of laundering her husband’s asbestos-laden work clothes).
TVA contends that the cases decided under the laws of New York, Georgia,
R.C. § 2307.941(A)(1).
and California are especially persuasive, allegedly because the laws of those
jurisdictions are similar to those of Alabama regarding issues of “duty.”144 However,
when deciding that no duty was owed to non-employees in a take-home exposure
claim similar to the present action, the trial court judge of the Erie County, New York,
Supreme Court said that “[d]uty in negligence cases is not defined by foreseeability
of injury. Rather, foreseeability determines merely the scope of the duty once it is
determined to exist.” In re Eighth Judicial District Asbestos Litigation, 12 Misc.3d
at 938-39, 815 N.Y.S.2d at 818 (alteration supplied, internal citations and quotation
marks omitted).145 Furthermore, while the Supreme Court of Georgia declined, based
upon policy considerations, to extend an employer’s duty to provide a safe workplace
beyond its employees, to persons outside the workplace, the Court did not place the
same emphasis on foreseeability that an Alabama court would.
Transportation, Inc., 608 S.E.2d at 210 (“[W]e decline to extend on the basis of
foreseeability the employer’s duty beyond the workplace to encompass all who might
come into contact with an employee or an employee’s clothing outside the
workplace.”) (alteration supplied). Finally, even though the California Court of
Appeals considered the foreseeability of an injury when determining “duty” in a take144
See doc. no. 128 (TVA’s Brief in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment), at 21.
The Erie County, New York Supreme Court is a trial court of general jurisdiction,
structurally equivalent to an Alabama Circuit Court.
home exposure claim, it stated:
[E]ven assuming a property owner can reasonably be expected to foresee
the risk of latent disease to a worker’s family members secondarily
exposed to asbestos used on its premises, we must conclude strong
public policy considerations counsel against imposing a duty of care on
property workers for such secondary exposure . . . .
Campbell, 141 Cal. Rptr. 3d at 402-03 (alteration supplied). Notably, the court did
not address foreseeability as the “key factor” in its determination.
In contrast to TVA’s arguments, plaintiffs cite cases in which the courts placed
an emphasis on the foreseeability of an injury, while also considering public policy.
See Satterfield, 266 S.W.3d at 373-75 (noting that “Tennessee’s courts rely heavily
on forseeability when determining the existence and scope of a duty,” and that “the
existence of a duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid the risk of harm to another
involves considerations of fairness and public policy”); Olivio, 895 A.2d at 1148
(“Foreseeability is significant in the assessment of a duty of care to another,” and
“[o]nce the ability to foresee harm to a particular individual has been established . .
. considerations of fairness and policy govern whether the imposition of a duty is
warranted.”) (alterations supplied).
TVA argues, nevertheless, that the Alabama Supreme Court would adopt the
reasoning of courts in California and Georgia, and hold that policy concerns weigh
against the imposition of a duty under the circumstances present in this action,
because the policy considerations surrounding the establishment of a new duty are
substantial, and have potentially far-reaching implications for individual litigants, the
business community, and the courts. Even so, the Supreme Court of Tennessee
recognized that there is no danger to the business community in finding that liability
should be imposed upon employers who were “aware of, or should have been aware
of, the risk to others that could result from exposure to asbestos fibers,” and who also
knew that their “employees’ work clothes contained significant quantities of asbestos
fibers, and . . . understood the danger of transmitting these asbestos fibers to others”
outside the workplace. Satterfield, 266 S.W.3d at 371; see also Olivo, 895 A.2d at
1150 (“Although Exxon Mobil fears limitless exposure to liability based on a theory
of foreseeability built on contact with Anthony’s asbestos-contaminated clothing,
such fears are overstated. The duty we recognize in these circumstances is focused
on the particularized foreseeability of harm to plaintiff’s wife, who ordinarily would
perform typical household chores that would include laundering the work clothes
worn by her husband.”); Simpkins, 929 N.E.2d at 1266 (dismissing policy concerns
of “limitless liability to ‘the entire world’” based upon the fact that “the scope of
liability will be inherently limited by the foreseeability of the harm”).
Thus, the question of whether policy considerations affecting the recognition
of a duty to family members of employees in take-home asbestos exposure cases
should be deemed to outweigh the foreseeability of injury is an unanswered issue of
Alabama law that should be resolved by that State’s highest court. See, e.g., Jones
v. Dillard’s, Inc., 331 F.3d 1259, 1268 (11th Cir. 2003); Sultenfuss v. Snow, 35 F.3d
1494, 1504 (11th Cir. 1994) (en banc) (Carnes, J., dissenting) (“Only a state supreme
court can provide what we can be assured are ‘correct’ answers to state law questions,
because a state’s highest court is the one true and final arbiter of state law.”).
The term “general causation” refers to the question of whether an allegedly
toxic substance has the potential to cause the plaintiff’s injury. In that regard, the
Eleventh Circuit has observed that
toxic tort cases usually come in two broad categories: first, those cases
in which the medical community generally recognizes the toxicity of the
drug or chemical at issue, and second, those cases in which the medical
community does not generally recognize the agent as both toxic and
causing the injury plaintiff alleges. Examples of the first type include
toxins like asbestos, which causes asbestosis and mesothelioma; silica,
which causes silicosis; and cigarette smoke, which causes cancer. . . .
McClain v. Metabolife Int’l, Inc., 401 F.3d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 2005) (emphasis
and ellipsis supplied); see also, e.g., Chapman v. Procter & Gamble Distributing,
LLC, 766 F.3d 1296, 1303 (11th Cir. 2014) (same); doc. no. 201 (Agreed and
Stipulated Facts), ¶ 82 (“[A]sbestos is generally recognized in the medical community
as having the potential to cause mesothelioma.”) (alteration supplied).
In order to recover on a claim of negligence, however, plaintiffs must also
prove “proximate causation” by demonstrating that TVA’s conduct “naturally and
probably brought about the harm,” and, that “the harm would not have happened
without the conduct.” 2 Alabama Pattern Jury Instructions — Civil § 33.00 (3d ed.
2013). Accord Lingefelt v. International Paper Co., 57 So. 3d 118, 122-23 (Ala. Civ.
App. 2010) (“Proximate cause is an act or omission that in a natural and continuous
sequence, unbroken by any new independent causes, produces the injury and without
which the injury would not have occurred.”) (quoting Martin v. Arnold, 643 So. 2d
564, 567 (Ala. 1994)); Vines v. Plantation Motor Lodge, 336 So. 2d 1338, 1339 (Ala.
1976) (“Liability will be imposed only when negligence is the proximate cause of
injury; injury must be a natural and probable consequence of the negligent act or
omission which an ordinarily prudent person ought reasonably to foresee would result
in injury.”); City of Mobile v. Havard, 268 So. 2d 805, 810 (Ala. 1972) (“For an act
to constitute actionable negligence, there must be not only some causal connection
between the negligent act complained of and the injury suffered, but also the
connection must be by a natural and unbroken sequence, without intervening,
efficient causes, so that, but for the negligence of the defendant, the injury would not
Although the foregoing standards for determining proximate causation are
appropriate in most negligence actions, the parties disagree regarding whether the
Alabama Supreme Court would apply traditional “but-for” causation, or “substantial
factor” causation, in a case where multiple exposures to a toxic agent, such as
airborne asbestos fibers, combine to produce the plaintiffs’ injuries.146 No Alabama
courts have addressed this issue. See Holland v. Armstrong International, Inc., 2012
WL 7761438, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 28, 2012) (observing that, even though the
Alabama Supreme Court has not definitively addressed the causation standard to be
applied in asbestos cases, that Court “has held under maritime law that proof that
defendant’s asbestos-containing product caused plaintiff’s injuries is an essential
element to any claim based on asbestos exposure”) (citing Sheffield v.
Owens–Corning Fiberglass Corp., 595 So. 2d 443, 450–54 (Ala. 1992)) (emphasis
Plaintiffs contend that a “substantial factor causation standard” should govern
asbestos cases involving multiple exposures. That standard is described by the
TVA incorporates its summary judgment briefing regarding what causation standard
should apply in this case. See doc. no. 209 (TVA’s Post-Trial Brief), at 8 n.9. Plaintiffs, likewise,
incorporate their summary judgment briefing regarding that issue. See doc. no. 213 (Plaintiffs’
Response to TVA’s Post-Trial Brief), at 7-8.
Restatement (Second) of Torts as follows: “The actor’s negligent conduct is a legal
cause of harm to another if (a) his conduct is a substantial factor in bringing about
the harm, and (b) there is no rule of law relieving the actor from liability because of
the manner in which his negligence has resulted in the harm.” Restatement (Second)
of Torts § 431 (emphasis supplied). The Alabama Supreme Court applied that
standard in the case cited by the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in its opinion in
Holland v. Armstrong International, supra:
i.e., Sheffield v. Owens-Corning
Fiberglass, 595 So. 2d 443 (Ala. 1992), a case in which former seamen sued
shipowners and manufacturers of products containing asbestos for exposure to
airborne asbestos fibers while serving on board their respective ships. See id. at 446.
That case was governed by principles of maritime law, however, which are “[d]rawn
from state and federal sources and represent an amalgam of traditional common-law
rules, modifications of those rules, and newly created rules.” Id. at 450 (quoting East
River S.S. Corp. v. Transamerica Delaval, Inc., 476 U.S. 858, 864-65 (1986))
(alteration in original, internal quotation marks omitted). For those reasons, the
Alabama Supreme Court in Sheffield followed other admiralty courts by relying on
the Restatement (Second) of Torts for general standards of proof of causation. Id.
Plaintiffs acknowledge that Sheffield was decided under maritime law, but
argue that the Alabama Supreme Court relied on Sheffield in the case of OwensCorning Fiberglass Corp. v. Gant, 662 So. 2d 255 (Ala. 1995): an appeal that arose
from the trial of four asbestos personal injury actions that had been consolidated for
trial, and in which the jury returned verdicts in favor of the plaintiffs. The defendant,
Owens Corning Fiberglass Corporation (“OCF”), appealed from the judgments based
on jury verdicts for the plaintiffs , contending that the trial judge erred when denying
OCF’s motion for a directed verdict on the issue of proximate cause, and “arguing
that the plaintiffs failed to prove sufficient exposure to OCF’s asbestos-containing
product, Kaylo.” Id. at 256. The Alabama Supreme Court rejected that argument,
and cited its prior opinion in Sheffield approvingly. See id. Even so, the Gant court
did not expressly state that Sheffield’s analysis had been adopted as the appropriate
standard under Alabama law for determining causation in cases involving multiple
exposures to airborne asbestos fibers.147 Although the Gant opinion is a signal
Specifically, the Gant Court said:
OCF contends that it was entitled to a directed verdict on the issue of
proximate cause, arguing that the plaintiffs failed to prove sufficient exposure to
OCF's asbestos-containing product, Kaylo. We have carefully and thoroughly
studied the record. We conclude that the trial court properly sent the cases to the
jury. See Sheffield v. Owens–Corning Fiberglass Corp., 595 So. 2d 443, 456 (Ala.
1992); Rule 50, A. R. Civ. P.; K.S. v. Carr, 618 So. 2d 707, 713 (Ala. 1993); Bailey
v. Avera, 560 So. 2d 1038, 1039 (Ala. 1990); Woodruff v. Johnson, 560 So. 2d 1040,
1041 (Ala. 1990); Timmerman v. Fitts, 514 So. 2d 907, 910 (Ala. 1987).
Owens-Corning Fiberglass Corp. v. Gant, 662 So. 2d 255, 256 (Ala. 1995).
indicating that the Alabama Supreme Court would adopt the “substantial factor”
standard in cases involving liability for multiple exposures to airborne asbestos fibers,
it does not definitively settle the issue.148
TVA argues, on the other hand, that there is no reason to deviate from
Alabama’s traditional “but-for” causation standard, and that the Alabama Supreme
Court would adopt the following adaptation of the but-for standard in a multiple
exposure toxic tort case: either “(1) that the illness would not have occurred without
exposure to the defendant’s asbestos or (2) that exposure to the defendant’s asbestos
was independently sufficient to cause the illness.” Doc. no. 128 (TVA’s Brief in
Support of Motion for Summary Judgment), at 17 (emphasis supplied). See, e.g.,
Ford Motor Co. v. Boomer, 736 S.E.2d 724 (Va. 2013); Wilcox v. Homestake Mining
Co., 619 F.3d 1165, 1169 (10th Cir. 2010) (applying New Mexico but-for causation
Plaintiffs also note that the Texas Court of Appeals relied on the Sheffield opinion to apply
the substantial factor test as the appropriate causation standard under Alabama law. North American
Refractory Co. v. Easter, 988 S.W.2d 904, 908, 911 (Tex. App. 1999). However, the Texas court
failed to take note of the fact that the Sheffield opinion was decided under federal maritime law.
Plaintiffs also note that the Alabama Supreme Court applied a “contributing cause” standard in a
workers’ compensation case involving toxic exposure not exclusively occurring in the workplace.
Ex parte Valdez, 636 So. 2d 401, 403 (Ala. 1994). Although the Alabama Workers’ Compensation
Act requires plaintiffs to establish that the workplace was the “proximate cause” of an injury, “it is
well established that [Alabama] courts have historically rejected a ‘but-for’ test in workers’
compensation cases in favor of a ‘causal-connection’ test.” Ex parte Patton, 77 So. 3d 591, 594 (Ala.
2011) (alteration supplied). Thus, the Alabama Supreme Court’s rejection of the but-for test in a
Workers’ Compensation case involving toxic exposure is no indication that the court would apply
the substantial factor causation standard to a negligence action involving toxic exposure.
standard to a toxic tort case involving radiation exposure).
The standard advocated by TVA appears to be the minority position in asbestos
cases. See, e.g., Lindstrom v. A-C Product Liability Trust, 424 F.3d 488, 492 (6th
Cir. 2005) (applying substantial factor test under maritime law); Lohrmann v.
Pittsburgh Corning Corp., 782 F.2d 1156, 1162-63 (4th Cir. 1986) (upholding
substantial factor test in a Maryland asbestos case); Rando v. Anco Insulations, Inc.,
16 So. 3d 1065, 1088 (La. 2009); Borg-Warner Corp. v. Flores, 232 S.W.3d 765,
773-74 (Tex. 2007); Rutherford v. Owens-Illinois, Inc., 941 P.2d 1203, 1219 (Cal.
1997); Thacker v. UNR Industries, Inc., 603 N.E.2d 449, 455 (Ill. 1992).
Moreover, the causation standard advocated by TVA does not “recognize the
proof difficulties accompanying asbestos claims. The long latency period for
asbestos-related diseases, coupled with the inability to trace precisely which fibers
caused disease and from whose product they emanated, make this process inexact.”
Borg-Warner Corp. v. Flores, 232 S.W.3d at 772. The Illinois Supreme Court
addressed some of those issues in the case of Thacker v. UNR Industries, Inc., supra,
Courts throughout the country . . . have struggled with how a
plaintiff in an asbestos case can fairly meet the burden of production
with regard to causation. Several factors complicate the analysis . . . .
First, because asbestos fibers are friable and may float in the air, it is
possible that even those who do not come into direct physical contact
with asbestos products may suffer from asbestos poisoning. Second,
due to the microscopic size of asbestos fibers, asbestos cannot always be
seen drifting in the air or entering a plaintiff’s body. The small size of
these fibers also means that asbestos fibers from different sources are
generally indistinguishable from one another, even when removed from
a plaintiff’s body and examined through a microscope. Third, asbestos
injury takes an extended time period to manifest itself. Evidence
presented to the jury showed that the time between when asbestos fibers
are first inhaled and when scarring in the lungs becomes symptomatic
is commonly between 25 and 30 years. This means that a plaintiff
injured by asbestos fibers often does not know exactly when or where
he was injured and therefore is unable to describe the details of how
such injury occurred. In addition, we note that even when a plaintiff is
able to narrow the circumstances of exposure to a single event or
circumstance, the extended passage of time between exposure and
illness often means that witnesses are no longer readily available or that
the memories of those who are available have become unreliable.
Thacker, 603 N.E.2d at 455-56 (emphasis and alterations supplied).
Once again, the question of whether traditional “but-for” causation, or
“substantial factor” causation should apply to cases in which multiple exposures to
a toxic agent, such as airborne asbestos fibers, combine to produce the plaintiff’s
injuries is an unanswered issue of Alabama law that should be resolved by that State’s
Because the issues of duty and causation in this case are unsettled areas of
Alabama law, and because the resolution of those questions will have significance
beyond the facts of the present case, this court concludes that certification to the
Alabama Supreme Court is advisable.
IV. QUESTIONS CERTIFIED TO THE ALABAMA SUPREME COURT
Hence, pursuant to Article VI, § 6.02(b)(3) of the Alabama Constitution of
1901, as amended, and Alabama Rule of Appellate Procedure 18, the following two
questions are certified to the Alabama Supreme Court:
WHETHER A PREMISES OWNER HAS A DUTY TO PROTECT
THE FAMILY MEMBERS OF PERSONS WHO WORK ON THE
PROPERTY OWNER’S PREMISES FROM SECONDARY
EXPOSURE TO A TOXIC AGENT, SUCH AS ASBESTOS, USED
DURING THE COURSE OF THE PROPERTY OWNER’S
WHAT CAUSATION STANDARD APPLIES WHEN MULTIPLE
EXPOSURES TO A TOXIC AGENT, SUCH AS ASBESTOS,
COMBINE TO PRODUCE THE PLAINTIFF’S INJURY?
The phrasing of the foregoing questions is not intended to limit the inquiry of the
Alabama Supreme Court. When answering the certified questions, the Supreme Court
is at liberty to consider the problems and issues involved in this case as it perceives
them. In order to assist the Supreme Court, the court transmits entire record in this
DONE and ORDERED this 22nd day of June, 2015.
United States District Judge
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