There have been countless mesothelioma victims whose lawsuits against the companies they blame for their illness have run up against the “bare metal defense” – where a manufacturer whose equipment uses an asbestos-containing component denies responsibility because that component was provided by a third party supplier. Those cases have been emotional roller coasters, as some courts have held that the original manufacturer is responsible and others have said they are not. Now the issue will be addressed in the highest court in the land: the U.S. Supreme Court.
The case is Air and Liquid System Corp v. Devries, and it specifically involves the complexities of maritime law. The original claim was filed by Roberta G. Devries and Shirley McAfee, two widows whose husbands served in the U.S. Navy and who died of asbestos-related diseases. The women filed lawsuits against multiple manufacturers, including Air and Liquid System Corp., General Electric and CBS, holding them responsible for their husband’s deaths The companies in turn have argued that they had no duty to warn about dangers posed by elements introduced by other manufacturers. At issue is whether those manufacturers – known as bare-metal manufacturers – have a responsibility to foresee the use of asbestos-containing products in their equipment and to provide warning to those who would come into contact with it.
Though there have been similar mesothelioma cases heard in courts before, this particular instance is complicated by the fact that the two men were sailors, and therefore the decision will be governed by maritime law. This will have an impact on the compensation available, as well as other aspects of the case. The two original lawsuits were filed separately, but both in Pennsylvania state court, claiming both negligence and strict liability. The district court granted summary judgment for the manufacturers, and then both women appealed separately to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Both lost their appeals, and then appealed to the Third Circuit, which consolidated the cases and affirmed the lower court’s decision with respect to strict liability, but remanded the claims for negligence back to the district court.
As mesothelioma advocates watch and wait for the court’s decision on this important case, people who were victims of asbestos exposure continue to be diagnosed with mesothelioma and other challenging illnesses. If you need information about your rights and the resources available to you, contact us today at 1-800-692-8608.