Product Liability -- 2019

Air and Liquid Systems v. DeVries   (U.S. Supreme Court)

Overbroad asbestos liability

The NAM filed an amicus brief on behalf of a metal parts manufacturer to argue against overbroad asbestos liability for companies whose products do not contain asbestos. Individual plaintiffs who worked on ocean vessels sued manufacturers of metal parts used in the vessels. The defendant’s parts did not contain asbestos but were later combined with other third-party parts that did, which the plaintiffs claimed caused them to develop lung disease.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit found the metal component manufacturers liable for the plaintiffs' injuries, concluding that it was "reasonably foreseeable" that the metal components would be integrated with asbestos components on the ship. If not reversed, that liability standard could impose limitless potential liability on manufacturers whose products do not even contain asbestos. That same theory could also be used to hold manufacturers liable for third-party products beyond the asbestos context. The U.S. Supreme Court granted review. The NAM filed an amicus brief in support of the company to argue against this overbroad scope of liability that could hurt manufacturers by making them liable for asbestos exposure for manufacturing products that do not even contain asbestos.

On March 19, 2019, the Court rejected the 3rd Circuit's overbroad holding that would have imposed liability on manufacturers whenever it is "foreseeable" that their products might be integrated with other third-party products that could cause harm. Instead, the Supreme Court ruled that a manufacturer only has a duty to warn when the manufacturer's product requires incorporation of another part (such as asbestos) that the manufacturer knows or has reason to know is likely to make the integrated product dangerous.

Related Documents:
NAM brief  (July 16, 2018)


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