Several state and federal courts have recently addressed a hot-button issue in product liability law: whether the manufacturer of a product that has an asbestos-containing replacement part that causes injury may be liable even if the manufacturer itself did not manufacture or supply the replacement part. Consider this example: a manufacturer produces a steam trap or boiler that contains an asbestos gasket that needs to be replaced from time to time. Third parties supply the replacement gaskets. Is the original product manufacturer liable for injuries allegedly caused by the asbestos-containing replacement gaskets?
Continue Reading Whelan v. Armstrong Int’l, Inc.: Latest Asbestos Ruling Expands Manufacturer Liability for Injuries

Environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are pursuing litigation against EPA to force companies that have never intentionally used asbestos in a product to file reports linking their products to asbestos. Manufacturing and chemical companies should keep an eye on Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization v. Wheeler – currently pending in California federal court – where the NGOs seek to dramatically increase companies’ obligations to disclose that their products contain asbestos – even where it is just present as an impurity.
Continue Reading District Court Decision on EPA Reporting Could Affect Asbestos Litigation

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Air & Liquid Systems Corp., et al. v. Devries, 139 S. Ct. 986 (2019), a maritime tort law case in which plaintiffs alleged that asbestos exposure during their Navy service caused them to develop cancer. The Supreme Court held that, in the maritime context, a manufacturer has a duty to warn not only of the manufacturer’s own products, but also of third-party products that are later added to the manufacturer’s product.
Continue Reading The Rule of Requirement: Supreme Court Adopts New Standard for Manufacturer’s Duty to Warn in Maritime Law

On November 29, EPA announced that it will review the hazard and exposure risks caused by asbestos. Asbestos will be one of the first ten substances to be evaluated under the TSCA amendments commonly referred to as the Lautenberg Act. As we have discussed elsewhere, TSCA now requires EPA to produce a risk evaluation work plan for these substances by June 2017 and complete its evaluation within three years following. If EPA determines any of these substances pose unreasonable risks, then EPA must take further action to mitigate any risks.
Continue Reading TSCA and Asbestos—a New Approach or One That Reveals the Same Old Problems?

On June 28, 2016, the Court of Appeals decided the following question: Does a manufacturer have a duty to warn about asbestos-containing parts made by someone else but used with its non-asbestos product? The Court answered, “Sometimes,” under a relatively narrow set of circumstances.

The plaintiff in Dummitt v. Crane Co., a Navy boiler technician from 1960-1977, alleged that he developed mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos insulation used with Crane Co.’s high-temperature steam valves. Crane Co. didn’t make the insulation, and its valves did not contain any asbestos.
Continue Reading New York Court of Appeals Addresses the Duty to Warn

Earlier this week, the Seventh Circuit issued a ruling in Lu Junhong v. Boeing Co. that defendants can remove cases to federal court under admiralty jurisdiction alone. The ruling may very well change the dynamics of mass tort filings in so-called “magnet jurisdictions” like Madison County and Cook County.

Junhong involved a group of Cook County cases from Asiana Airlines Flight 214. Two years ago, that Boeing 777 crashed into the seawall at San Francisco International Airport. The plane’s tail broke off, 49 persons suffered serious injuries, and three of the passengers died (the other 255 passengers and crew aboard suffered only minor or no injuries). Passengers sued Boeing in Illinois state court, alleging the plane’s systems were defective and contributed to the pilots’ errors. Boeing then removed the lawsuits to federal court, asserting two sources of jurisdiction: federal officer under § 1442 and general admiralty under § 1333.
Continue Reading Potential Game Changer: Admiralty Jurisdiction Serves As A Basis For Removal

Pennsylvania employers are raising arguments that may circumvent the effect of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision stripping them of the protections of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA) for latent occupational diseases.  In the November 2013 decision in Tooey v. AK Steel Corp. (see the related post here), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court allowed former employees with occupational diseases, like mesothelioma, to sue their employers directly for diseases that manifest more than 300 weeks after employment ends.  In the wake of Tooey, employers have focused on the Pennsylvania Occupational Disease Act (ODA) arguing that it still provides administrative remedies that must be exhausted before a former employee can sue for a latent occupational disease.
Continue Reading PA Employers Craft Arguments To Navigate Around Tooey

On Friday afternoon, a jury in the Northern District of Illinois returned a verdict for defendants Owens-Illinois, Inc. and ExxonMobil, rejecting plaintiff Charles Krik’s claim that his lung cancer developed as a result of a “synergistic effect” between his alleged asbestos exposure and his cigarette smoking. The jury found, as argued by the defendants, that the sole proximate cause of plaintiff’s lung cancer was cigarette smoking. The jury’s finding on sole proximate cause made it unnecessary to reach the questions of whether the defendants were negligent or whether Mr. Krik was contributorily negligent. It was also unnecessary for the jury to reach Owens-Illinois’s government contractor and maritime defenses, in light of the defense verdict on causation.

Continue Reading Defense Wins Jury Verdict in Alleged Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer Case in Chicago

On Tuesday, a Los Angeles jury found that Colgate-Palmolive Company’s Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder caused plaintiff Judith Winkel’s mesothelioma. The jury awarded Mr. and Mrs. Winkel $13 million in damages, finding for plaintiffs on design defect, manufacturing defect, failure to warn, and negligence liability theories. Following the verdict, the parties reached a settlement before the trial’s punitive damages phase began.
Continue Reading Colgate-Palmolive Company Smacked with $13M Talc Verdict