final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, William
Thomas, Judge. Lower Tribunal No. 12-30637
Piper and Fredrick H.L. McClure and J. Trumon Phillips
(Tampa); Munger, Tolles & Olson and Michael B. DeSanctis
(Washington, DC) and John B. Major (San Francisco, CA), for
Ferraro Law Firm and Juan P. Bauta, II, and Janpaul Portal,
Crowell & Moring and William L. Anderson; Shook Hardy
& Bacon and Frank Cruz-Alvarez, for Florida Justice
Reform Institute and Coalition for Litigation Justice, Inc.,
as amici curiae.
SUAREZ, SALTER and LUCK, JJ.
a mesothelioma case originally brought by Dennis Britt and
his wife, Rosa-Maria Britt (as to loss of consortium), as
plaintiffs ("Mr. and Mrs. Britt"), against Northrop
Grumman Systems Corporation ("Northrop"). In 2014,
Mr. Britt passed away, and Mrs. Britt (as personal
representative of his estate), was substituted for Mr. Britt.
Mrs. Britt also amended the complaint to add a claim for
end of a week-long trial, the jury rendered a verdict
awarding Mr. Britt's estate a total of $519, 265.60 in
medical and funeral expenses, and awarding Mrs. Britt $8,
500, 000.00 in compensatory damages. Northrop appealed and
has raised five issues here:
1. Northrop argues that Mrs. Britt failed to file and serve
her motion for substitution within 90 days after Mr.
Britt's death was "suggested upon the record, "
as required by Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.260(a)(1),
requiring dismissal of the complaint.
2. Northrop asserts that Mrs. Britt failed to prove that Mr.
Britt's exposure to asbestos while on the premises of
Northrop (and companies acquired by Northrop) was a
substantial cause of Mr. Britt's mesothelioma, and that
the trial court erred when it denied Northrop's motions
for a directed verdict.
3. Northrop claims error in the trial court's rulings
allowing the admission of expert testimony by Mrs.
Britt's expert witness, Dr. Murray Finkelstein. Northrop
alleges that Dr. Finkelstein's methodology was equivalent
to an "any exposure" or "single fiber"
causation opinion-a methodology discredited by the courts and
one which precluded the opinion from admission into evidence.
4. Northrop also maintains that a 2013 asbestos fiber
analysis and report prepared by Dr. Anna Somigliana in Milan,
Italy,  was a "late-disclosed and prejudicial
expert opinion" that should not have been admitted into
5. Northrop contends that the trial court should not have
excluded evidence regarding nonparties that may have exposed
Mr. Britt to asbestos during his career, depriving Northrop
of an apportionment of liability on the verdict form under
Fabre v. Marin, 623 So.2d 1182 (Fla. 1993). Northrop
argues that there was as much evidence of causation and Mr.
Britt's exposure to asbestos on the premises of
nonparties Mack Trucks and Bekins as there was regarding his
exposure on the premises of Northrop.
no reversible error regarding any of these points, and thus
affirm the verdict and final judgment below. Before
addressing Northrop's contentions in order, we consider
the pertinent facts and proceedings that culminated in the
verdict and final judgment.
Facts and Proceedings Below
Britt was an employee benefits advisor during the period
1978-97. As part of that work, Mr. Britt visited commercial
and industrial facilities to speak with, and enroll, the
employees at those facilities. Those facilities included
workplaces owned and operated by Northrop and subsidiaries.
Britt testified before his death that, during the course of
his visits to Northrop facilities in Bethpage, New York, and
Hawthorne, California, he was exposed to, and inhaled,
asbestos fibers while on the premises of the facilities. He,
his physician, and his expert witness, testified that Mr.
Britt's exposure to the asbestos was a substantial cause
of his ultimately-fatal mesothelioma.
trial, Mrs. Britt introduced evidence that Northrop's
facilities where Mr. Britt had worked contained
asbestos-insulated pipes that released airborne materials
above him, and ten to fifteen feet away from him, during the
maintenance activities he saw during his visits. His
deposition testimony that he was on site at Northrop's
facilities each year from 1979 to the "mid 80s, "
and working in areas where asbestos remediation and
maintenance activities were taking place, provided an
estimate of over 500 days of exposure.
Mr. Britt's deposition also included his description of
visits to non-party facilities owned by Mack Trucks and
Bekins Van Lines, and his observations of dust and
maintenance performed on pipes and boiler rooms at those
facilities, there was no evidence that the pipes and boilers
at those facilities were asbestos-containing. In contrast,
the evidence at trial contained extensive documents and
testimony regarding the presence of asbestos in the pipes and