Product Liability -- 2016

CertainTeed Corp. v. Fletcher   (Georgia Supreme Court)

Liability of manufacturers for take-home occupational exposure of customer's employee to asbestos

Workers injured by asbestos exposure at work typically have been compensated for their injuries by worker's compensation systems. They also sued asbestos product manufacturers, and as a result, most of the manufacturers filed for bankruptcy. They then sued peripheral defendants such as premises owners. More recenltly, peripheral plaintiffs, family members of workers, have brought suits against premises owners and employers, claiming nonoccupational, offsite exposure to asbestos through contact with a worker's clothes. Most of the courts which been asked to recognize a duty to warn household members of the risks associated with exposure to asbestos conclude that no such duty exists.

This case goes one step further in asserting a duty to warn. The plaintiffs wanted to hold manufacturers liable for failing to warn about asbestos risks to the household members of workers at companies that use their products. The NAM filed an amicus brief arguing that if employers have no such duty to warn, certainly product manufacturers, which are even more distant from housefold members of customer employees, cannot be made liable for such a duty. The relationship between the manufacturer and such a person is simply too remote to create this duty. Imposing an expansive new duty on manufacturers to people who never purchased, used, or were in the vicinity of their products would lead to asbestos litigation that involves increasingly tenuous connections between plaintiffs and defendants.

On Nov. 30, 2016, the court ruled that the manufacturer does not have a duty to warn such remote parties, "whether those individuals be family members or simply members of the public who were exposed to asbestos-laden clothing, as the mechanism and scope of such warnings would be endless." The Georgia Supreme Court properly denied what would have been a dramatic expansion of product liability law.

Related Documents:
NAM amicus brief  (March 14, 2016)


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