The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently held that an asbestos plaintiff’s use of interrogatories that were prepared over 30 years ago in a California case were admissible. In Petrina v. Allied Glove, the plaintiff sued Union Carbide over the death of her husband following his exposure to asbestos dust from a joint compound that National Gypsum manufactured. Union Carbide moved for summary judgment based on a lack of product identification. In an attempt to defeat the motion, plaintiff’s counsel submitted answers to interrogatories filed by National Gypsum, a non-party to the case, in connection with a 1984 California case in which it was stated that Union Carbide was the exclusive supplier of asbestos to National Gypsum. The Allegheny Court of Common Pleas found that these interrogatories were inadmissible hearsay and refused to admit them.
On appeal, the Superior Court rejected the lower court’s conclusion and noted that interrogatories may be used to create an issue of material fact to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Here, the interrogatories could be introduced at trial in two ways. First, a corporate representative of National Gypsum could affirm the contents of the interrogatories. The Court also noted that the interrogatories could be admitted as prior inconsistent statements. The Court reasoned that when National Gypsum’s representative had originally responded to the interrogatories, the responses became binding on the corporation he was answering on behalf of. Therefore, if another National Gypsum representative offered testimony that was inconsistent with the 1984 interrogatory responses, the responses could be admitted as prior inconsistent statements.
Thanks to Colleen Hayes for her contribution to this post.