When a company manufactures a product containing no asbestos, but knows their product will be used with a product containing asbestos, the courts are considering if they are responsible for issuing a warning to consumers. An example of this is a pump which needs gaskets in order to operate. The pump is asbestos free, but the gaskets required to operate the pump contain asbestos. Does the pump manufacturer need to warn consumers about the gaskets even though they did not manufacture them?
This type of liability question was recently brought before a U.S. District Judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The judge came to the conclusion that although the manufacturer of airplane motors could not be liable in terms of strict liability, since they did not make the insulation used around the motors, the company was negligent in their failure to warn about the insulation needed with their product. The judge felt the manufacturer knew that the component parts to their product contained asbestos and they failed to give adequate and reasonable warning.
This decision adds another case into an already mixed bag of determining negligence when strict liability does not apply. The U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that manufacturers are not liable to warn if they manufacture asbestos free products. Conversely, state supreme courts in Washington and California ruled companies could be liable for negligence if their asbestos free products are commonly used in conjunction with products containing asbestos. The most recent ruling in New Jersey came in April of 2014, in Hughes v A.W. Chesterton Co. In this case, the court ruled in favor of the defense and against the notion of negligence for failure to warn.
The gray area of the ruling is in the interpretation of Section 402A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts. Within this section, a judge must decide if negligence can be used in a claim. A definition of the product is needed to see if the additional asbestos parts will be clearly defined as necessary to use. Additionally, the court must decide if the manufacturer of the bare metal product had the knowledge and the foreseeability that their product would be used with another product containing asbestos.
With room for interpretation and precedents on both sides of the issue, courts will need to continue to examine asbestos exposure negligence cases. However, this latest decision in Pennsylvania gives support to the victims of asbestos exposure.
Our team of Philadelphia asbestos lawyers are here to fight for your right to fair compensation if you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos. Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler law offices are located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and we work tirelessly for clients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Call us at 215-569-4000 or contact us online to review the details of your case with one of our experienced Philadelphia mesothelioma lawyers.