By Jen Dlugosz on August 3, 2016

In May 2016, we reported the Northern District of Illinois’ decision in Neumann v. Borg-Warner Morse Tec LLC, No. 15-C-10507, 2016 WL 930662 (N.D. Ill. March 10, 2016). (click here for link to previous article). Following that ruling, plaintiff moved for reconsideration of the court’s ruling under FRCP 54(b). This summer, the court issued its decision denying plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration and granting Rule 12(c) motions to dismiss brought by six other defendants on the basis of the court’s prior ruling.

Plaintiff Doris Jane Neumann filed a negligence action against manufacturers of asbestos-containing products alleging take-home exposures from products that her son, Greg Neumann, worked with and around while employed as a gas station attendant and mechanic from 1970 through 1974. MW Custom Papers, a supplier of asbestos-containing friction paper used at Mr. Nuemann’s jobsite, had moved to dismiss arguing it had no duty to a take-home plaintiff. The court previously dismissed plaintiff’s claim against defendant MW Custom Papers, finding that MW Custom Papers did not owe a duty to plaintiff.

In her motion to reconsider, plaintiff argued that the court misinterpreted Illinois law, failed to account for the fact that the defendants were product manufacturers and failed to consider public policy considerations. The court disagreed and denied plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration. Neumann v. Borg-Warner Morse Tec LLC, No. 15-C-10507 (May 31, 2016).

At the outset, the court set forth the limited situations where reconsideration is appropriate and noted that Rule 54 motions are granted in exceptional circumstances. The court found plaintiff’s motion “flawed” and that it did not meet the requirements under the rules.  The court further held that plaintiff raised or could have raised each of her arguments earlier.  While plaintiff argued that the court misinterpreted the law, and in particular the Simpkins case, the court disagreed and cited to its prior opinion where Simpkins was addressed.  Plaintiff also requested to amend her complaint, but the court held amendment was futile.

Six remaining defendants also brought motions to dismiss, arguing that because the court previously found that plaintiff did not state a claim against MW Custom Papers, because no duty was owed, plaintiff’s allegations against them must be dismissed under the same rationale. The allegations against these six defendants were nearly identical to the allegations against MW Custom Papers.  The court held that its previous holding “should and does apply with equal measure against all Defendants,” and therefore granted defendants’ Rule 12(c) motions to dismiss.

While the Neumann decision has limited application to Illinois take-home cases, because its duty decision was ultimately based on Seventh Circuit rules of interpretation since the Illinois Supreme Court had not previously ruled on this issue of duty, this case may still be of benefit to those defending take-home exposure cases under Illinois law in federal court.