Duty of Manufacturers to Warn End Users of Harms Caused by Others' Products
NCLC urged the Supreme Court of Washington to hold that respirator manufacturers owe no duty to warn end-users of their products of the dangers of exposure to asbestos contained in other manufacturers' products which are used in the presence of the respirators. In this case, a mine worker who cleaned respirator cartridges sued the respirator manufacturer claiming the company should have warned him of dangers associated with the exposure to asbestos contained in other manufacturers' products. NCLC explained in its amicus brief that it is black-letter law that manufacturers are not liable for harms caused by others’ products. This case is part of the trial bar’s ongoing effort to find new defendants or raise new (and increasingly frivolous) theories of liability for asbestos exposure. The Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform estimates that over the last four decades, asbestos litigation, "the longest running mass tort in U.S. history," has cost the U.S. economy well over $340 billion.
The Washington Supreme Court issued a sharply divided decision holding that the court's earlier opinions in Simonetta and Braaten - rejecting a duty to warn about asbestos products sold by third parties - did not control "because the duty at issue is to warn of the danger of asbestos exposure inherent in the use and maintenance of the defendant manufacturers' own products, the respirators." The court concluded, "Here, the record as it is presented to us supports the plaintiffs' theory that the respirator manufacturers' own products, when used as intended, including cleaning for reuse, were inherently dangerous in the absence of adequate warnings."
NCLC amicus brief filed 9/19/11. Decided 8/9/12.