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June 2021

St. Louis Senior Counsel Mark Crapo Secured Summary Judgment in Thirteen Product Liability Cases in Missouri

Senior Counsel Mark Crapo of the St. Louis office of Gordon Rees Scully Mansukahni secured summary judgment on all claims against the firm’s client in thirteen product liability cases in Missouri. The client was sued for the plaintiffs’ alleged exposures to diacetyl-containing food flavoring while working in popcorn and food production plants in southeastern Missouri. The plaintiffs were claiming damages for alleged debilitating lung injuries, including bronchiolitis obliterans and other flavoring-related illness, and wrongful death. The plaintiffs originally sued up to over 40 defendants in each case. The client was the last remaining defendant in eight of the thirteen cases.

Gordon & Rees substituted as counsel for the client last year, which was one to four years after each case was originally filed and just months before anticipated trial dates.

While preparing the client’s trial defense, the firm filed motions for summary judgment asserting that each of the plaintiffs’ claims were barred by Illinois corporate dissolution law because the plaintiffs’ claims accrued after the client, an Illinois corporation, was dissolved.

In response to the summary judgment motions, plaintiffs argued that the current version of the Illinois survival statute should apply to their claims. Application of the current version, plaintiffs asserted, would render the issue of the timing of accrual irrelevant and permit plaintiffs’ claims to proceed against the dissolved corporation. Plaintiffs further argued that the client’s defense had been waived because it had not first been raised in responsive pleadings, the plaintiffs’ claims were since litigated for years, and plaintiffs had incurred extensive costs during the course of the litigation, including from depositions, expert discovery, and mediations.

Gordon & Rees successfully argued that the prior version of the statute, which was in effect at the time of the client’s dissolution, was applicable to all of plaintiffs’ claims, and that therefore the date of accrual was dispositive. The court likewise agreed that plaintiffs’ waiver arguments were insufficient after Gordon & Rees showed the bar need not be raised before summary judgment. The firm additionally moved to amend the client’s pleadings, and the court also granted those motions.

Gordon & Rees further obtained agreed dismissals in the remaining two cases pending against the client in the state of Missouri, after Gordon & Rees filed its motions for summary judgment based on the Illinois corporate dissolution bar, and plaintiffs declined to pursue opposing the motions in those cases.

Mark Crapo conducted oral argument for the client and prepared the motion briefing. Assistance with the client’s defense was provided by attorneys Julian Jones, Kylie Thompson, and Brianne Walker

Mark D. Crapo
Julian K. Jones
Kylie A. Thompson
Brianne E. Walker