According to a recent news article from the Legal Intelligencer, while companies are not strictly (automatically) liable for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illness caused by products they did not manufacture, they may still be liable under a traditional negligence cause of action with proof of duty, breach, and causation being required.
This is according to a recent ruling by a federal judge in Pennsylvania. While this is not United States Supreme Court precedence, many industry experts believe it may be foreshadowing a similar ruling from the high court. In Tincher v. Omega Fox, the case over which the federal judge presided, plaintiff had worked as a propeller mechanic on airplane engines manufactured by defendant.
While defendant manufactured the airplane engines, many of these engines contained aftermarket insulation made by other companies and installed in the engines.
As is common in cases like this, defendant argued it only manufactured non-insulated engines and was therefore a “bare metal manufacturer” and could not be held liable for asbestos-containing products made by another company and installed aftermarket. This type of defense is aptly named the “bare metal defense” in mesothelioma injury cases, as our Boston attorneys can explain.
While the judge held defendant would not be strictly liable for any mesothelioma injuries, the company could be liable under a theory of negligence if it knew the aftermarket products were being used on its engines, knew asbestos was a hazardous material, and did not take steps to warn potential victims of the dangers associated with these products.
In reaching such a decision, the court looked at state law cases on whether the bare metal defense was applicable in this situation involving a mesothelioma injury. Trial judge noted the state supreme court had not ever reached a decision on this issue and also noted other states were split on whether or not to allow a defendant to use the bare metal defense.
As part of the split, some courts were not willing to hold a manufacturer liable for injury caused by a product they didn’t manufacture, and that they had no duty to warn potential victims of the safety risks posed by these aftermarket products. On the other hand, some courts ruled manufacturers of asbestos-free products could be held liable for mesothelioma injuries if these aftermarket asbestos-laden products were used with defendant’s bare metal products. How courts ultimately ruled on this issue came down to how they interpreted Restatement of Torts 402.
Restatements of law are not binding authorities, but summarize common law principles on various areas of law and are edited by the American Law Institute (ALI), which is a respected legal scholarly body. The Restatement of Torts, Second, is the current edition of what many judges consider a learned treatise, and they use it when state law is not directly on point an cannot be used as an analogy.
Cases that present issues a court has not previously ruled on are known as cases of first impression in a particular jurisdiction. Since there is not binding precedential authority, courts will often look to secondary sources of authorities, including learned treatises like the restatements.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
Asbestos defendants say BAP1 gene mutation causes predisposition to mesothelioma , Madison-St. Claire Record, March 8, 2015
More Blog Entries:
Manufacturers of Asbestos-Free Products May Still Face Claims , June 1, 2015, Legal Intelligencer