NJ Supreme Court Appears Dubious About Ford’s Appeal of Mesothelioma Ruling

Though an appeal currently being considered by the New Jersey Supreme Court centers on a lawsuit filed by a victim of malignant mesothelioma, their decision will bear heavily on future asbestos cases. The court is hearing a challenge mounted for Ford Motor Company and others, which are arguing that it should not be held responsible for harm caused by asbestos-contaminated parts used in their vehicles but which they did not build or distribute. 

Court Questions Ford’s Failure to Warn

Ford Motor Company is asking the court to overturn an earlier court decision that found manufacturers could be held responsible for victims’ mesothelioma if they failed to warn about asbestos in parts required to make their products work properly, even if they had not distributed or manufactured those parts.  That court’s decision revolved around the case of Arthur Whelan, a mesothelioma victim who had been exposed to products used in Ford Motor Co. vehicles.

Mr. Whelan’s mesothelioma lawsuit accused Ford, Armstrong International, Carrier Corp. and other companies of failure to warn of the danger posed by asbestos in parts that their equipment needed to operate. The appellate court had disagreed with an earlier decision that a manufacturer can’t be liable for asbestos contamination in parts that they did not build or sell, deciding instead that the damage was caused by “the complete manufactured item as delivered by the manufacturer to the consumer, not just the asbestos contained in one of the product’s components,” and that therefore the companies had a duty to warn.

Ford Attorney Questioned by Judge

Pushing back against Ford’s attorney’s argument against responsibility to warn about the risk of mesothelioma, Justice Barry T. Albin asked, “Why is that unfair that you should give a warning?” He went on to point out, “They’ll always have asbestos on it, because you’ve created a car that requires asbestos-lined brake linings. … They were dangerous when you released the vehicle and they’ll be dangerous five years and 10 years from today, because that’s the way you produced the vehicle.” 

Mr. Whelan’s attorney supported this assertion, saying, “The danger of asbestos exposure was inherent in the operation and maintenance of the equipment. The asbestos components were integral to the functioning of the equipment. The equipment was not salable without asbestos. It did not work without asbestos, and it was the equipment that carried the asbestos into the stream of commerce.”

As mesothelioma victims await the court’s decision on this important case, they also need information about resources available to help them through their challenging journey. For assistance, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608.

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our Mesothelioma.net news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

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