Appeals Court Rules in Controversial Asbestos Case
A New Jersey appeals court has ruled that a manufacturer has a duty to warn about the risk of harm from exposure to asbestos-containing replacement parts in its products, even if the manufacturer did not make or distribute those parts, reports the New Jersey Law Journal.
That’s a resounding victory for many plaintiffs involved in asbestos-related lawsuits, including in the case of Whelan vs. Armstrong International, the suit that prompted the appeal and the decision by a three-judge appellate court earlier this week.
“We conclude that a duty to warn exists when the manufacturer’s product contains asbestos components, which are integral to the function of the product, and the manufacturer is aware that routine periodic maintenance of the product will require the replacement of the components with other asbestos-containing products,” wrote Appellate Division Judge Heidi Currier on behalf of the panel, which also included Judges Carmen Alvarez and William Nugent.
The team of judges determined that a Middlesex County, NJ judged erred during his initial ruling, which stated that Armstrong could not be held liable because they “did not produce the products or place them into the stream of commerce.”
The plaintiff in the case, Arthur Whelan – who is now deceased – worked both as an auto mechanic and as a commercial and residential plumber from the 1950s until his retirement in 1996.
His specialty was cleaning boilers, which were often insulated with asbestos materials and contained asbestos gaskets and other parts.
He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2008 and died a few years later.
Armstrong International wasn’t the only defendant named in this particular case. The article in the Law Journal points out that others included Burnham LLC, Carrier Corp., Cleaver-Brooks Inc., Crown Boiler Co., Ford Motor Co., Johnson Controls Inc., NIBCO Inc., and Oakfabco Inc.
And while they all admitted that replacement parts would have been used during routine maintenance on their products, the companies’ lawyers adamantly stated that they did not believe they had a duty to warn anyone who might come in contact with any asbestos-containing replacement parts.
However, it was evident that they likely knew these parts were hazardous yet did nothing, a fact that most certainly entered into the judges’ decision.