For years, manufacturers of automobiles and other pieces of equipment requiring replacement parts have denied their responsibility for malignant mesothelioma caused by asbestos in replacement parts for their equipment. They have pointed to the parts manufacturers and tried to wash their hands of responsibility despite the fact that their equipment required those parts to continue running. Yesterday the New Jersey Supreme Court put an end to that practice in a landmark decision against Ford Motor Company and others. They decided that those companies can be held liable for asbestos in parts that they did not build or distribute as long as those parts extended the life of their products.
Decision Revives Mesothelioma Lawsuit Against Ford and Others
The decision by the state’s Supreme Court revives the case of Arthur Whelan, who blamed Ford Motor Co., Carrier and Armstrong International for his malignant mesothelioma. He filed suit against those companies, arguing that they had a responsibility to warn of the dangers of asbestos in the replacement parts that their equipment required.
Though the lower court that heard the mesothelioma lawsuit had agreed with the manufacturers, the Appellate Court overturned that initial decision. In the appellate decision, Justice Barry T. Albin wrote, “Why is that unfair that you should give a warning? 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.”
Supreme Court Issues 5-2 Decision
In upholding the state appellate ruling, the court created a four-part test for when manufacturers and distributors could be held liable for failure to warn about asbestos-containing components and replacement parts built or distributed by other companies. Those four parts require plaintiffs to prove that the components were included in the original products; that they were “integral to the product and necessary for it to function”; that routine maintenance required replacing those parts with “similar asbestos-containing components”; and that exposure to the initial components or replacement parts was “a substantial factor in causing or exacerbating the plaintiff’s disease.”
Though the manufacturers argued that providing this warning would add an additional cost and burden, the judges dismissed that notion, writing that doing so “adds hardly any further burden or cost to the product manufacturers, who already have a duty to warn of the dangers of the original asbestos-containing components. It is only fair that the defendant manufacturers, who profit because the replacement components extend the life of their products, bear and spread the cost of the harm they caused.”
If you have been sickened by exposure to asbestos-related products, the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net can provide you with the resources you need to move forward. Contact us today at 1-800-692-8608.