Product Liability -- 2016

Dummitt v. A. W. Chesterton   (New York Court of Appeals)

Duty to warn about hazards in products made by other manufacturers

Since 1992, New York law has not imposed liability on a manufacturer of a product that itself causes no injury when used in conjunction with another product that does. The only exceptions have been when the manufacturer controls the production of the other product, derives a benefit from its sale, or placed it in the stream of commerce. The courts have revised that proposition in the context of asbestos litigation, and those revisions are the subject of this appeal to New York's highest court.

In this case, the Crane Company made valves, which others fitted with asbestos-containing materials. A ship worker claimed exposure to asbestos and secured a judgment against Crane on the theory that Crane should have warned that asbestos was hazardous, even though the company did not require the use of asbestos to operate the valves. The plaintiff secured a $4.4 million judgment, which was appealed.

The NAM and other business groups filed an amicus brief arguing that New York law does not extend a duty to warn about hazards in other manufacturers' products, and such a policy goes against precedents in many other states and in contexts other than asbestos. Imposing such liability is unsound public policy, and would worsen the asbestos litigation problem.

Unfortunately, the highest court in New York ruled 6/28/16 that "the manufacturer of a product has a duty to warn of the danger arising from the known and reasonably foreseeable use of its product in combination with a third-party product which, as a matter of design, mechanics or economic necessity, is necessary to enable the manufacturer's product to function as intended."

Related Documents:
NAM amicus brief  (October 8, 2014)


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