Justia California Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Products Liability
Webb v. Special Electric Co., Inc.
After plaintiff was injured by exposure to asbestos products, he filed suit against a raw asbestos supplier (Special Electric) for failure to warn him about the danger. At issue is the extent of the supplier's duty to warn. Under the sophisticated intermediary doctrine, the supplier can discharge this duty if it conveys adequate warnings to the material's purchaser (in this case, Johns-Manville), or sells to a sufficiently sophisticated purchaser, and reasonably relies on the purchaser to convey adequate warnings to others, including those who encounter the material in a finished product. Special Electric arguably forfeited the sophisticated intermediary defense by failing to present it to the jury. However, assuming the defense was preserved, the record does not establish as a matter of law that Special Electric discharged its duty to warn by reasonably relying on a sophisticated intermediary. The evidence is disputed about whether Special Electric consistently provided warnings to Johns-Manville during the relevant time frame; although the record clearly shows Johns-Manville was aware of the risks of asbestos in general, no evidence established it knew about the particularly acute risks posed by the crocidolite asbestos Special Electric supplied; plaintiffs presented evidence that at least one Special Electric salesperson told customers crocidolite was safer than other types of asbestos fiber, when the opposite was true; and the record does not establish as a matter of law that Special Electric actually and reasonably relied on Johns-Manville to warn end users like plaintiff about the dangers of asbestos. Accordingly, the court concluded that the trial court did not err in granting judgment notwithstanding the verdict because substantial evidence supports the jury's verdict against Special Electric. View "Webb v. Special Electric Co., Inc." on Justia Law
O’Neil, et al. v. Crane Co., et al.
Defendants, makers of valves and pumps, were sued for a wrongful death allegedly caused by asbestos released from external insulation and internal gaskets and packing, all of which were made by third parties and added to the pumps and valves post sale. This case involved the limits of a manufacturer's duty to prevent foreseeable harm related to its product. At issue was when was a product manufacturer liable for injuries caused by adjacent products or replacement parts that were made by others and used in conjunction with defendant's product. The court held that a product manufacturer could not be held liable in strict liability or negligence for harm caused by another manufacturer's product unless defendant's own product contributed substantially to the harm, or defendant participated substantially in creating a harmful combined use of the products. Accordingly, the decision of the Court of Appeal was reversed and the case remanded for entry of judgment of nonsuit in favor of defendants. View "O'Neil, et al. v. Crane Co., et al." on Justia Law