Asbestos Manufacturer Liability Redefined by Supreme Court

Asbestos Manufacturer Liability Redefined by Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has redefined the liability of a company under general maritime law for asbestos-related injuries caused by third party integrated parts. In the Air & Liquid Sys. Corp. v. Devries case the Supreme Court held that manufacturers need to warn users when their products contain other products that can be dangerous. Two Navy Veterans and their wives filed suit against manufacturers of equipment used on Navy ships (pumps, blowers, and turbines) due to their exposure to asbestos. Asbestos parts or asbestos insulation was required for the equipment to work properly, but the manufacturers did not always put the asbestos in their products. Instead, they sold the products without the asbestos and the Navy independently put in the asbestos after buying it.

The plaintiffs allege being exposed to asbestos while on Navy ships and then developing cancer. They are arguing that equipment manufacturers are liable because of their negligent behavior by not warning people about the dangers of asbestos parts in the equipment. The plaintiffs also argue that if the manufacturers provided warnings people who worked with the asbestos on the Navy ships could have worn protective masks to avoid exposure and injury.

The equipment manufacturers moved for summary judgment on the plaintiffs’ claims, stating that they should not be liable for parts that were added later by third parties. The U.S. District Court granted the manufacturers’ motions for summary judgment, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit vacated and remanded to the district court. This is because a manufacturer of a bare metal product could be held liable if it knew that the product would later be used with asbestos. The Supreme Court affirmed the Third Circuit’s vacate and remand ruling, stating that a product manufacturer is more knowledgeable about the required integrated parts and is in a better position to warn users about the product.

If you have been exposed to asbestos and now have lung cancer or mesothelioma, you may be entitled to compensation. Call us at 412-471-3980 or fill out our contact form below to speak to an attorney and learn your options.

Jennifer A. David, “Supreme Court Redefines Scope of Asbestos Manufacturer’s Liability under General Maritime Law” The National Law Review (March 29, 2019). [Link]

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