Maryland Court Broadens Applicability of “Strict Liability” and “Failure to Warn” Theories Pertaining to Equipment Containing Asbestos

Earlier last month, the Court of Appeals of Maryland decided a case that may have a significant impact for anyone who had contact with equipment containing asbestos and has subsequently been diagnosed with a serious illness. In the case, May v. Air & Liquid Systems Corporation, the court allowed the plaintiff’s case to proceed against the defendant manufacturer even though the asbestos-containing part causing the plaintiff’s injuries was not manufactured by the defendant.

meters-1426079The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in the case is the widow of a man who served in the Navy between the years of 1956 and 1976. During her husband’s tenure in the Navy, he was a machinist who worked on pumps that were manufactured by the defendant. At some point after his service, the plaintiff’s husband was diagnosed with mesothelioma that was a result of his coming into contact with asbestos that was contained in the gaskets of the pump.

The gaskets, however, were replacement parts and were not manufactured by the defendant, but by a third party not present in this lawsuit. The man’s wife filed a lawsuit based on the legal theories of strict products liability and failure to warn. It was not contested that the pump’s manual made no mention of the dangers of asbestos.

In a pre-trial motion, the defendant asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing that they had no duty to the plaintiff’s husband because they did not manufacture the gasket with which he came into contact. The lower courts agreed with the defendants and dismissed the case. Not satisfied with the result, the plaintiff appealed.

On Appeal, the Decision Is Reversed, and the Case Is Allowed to Proceed

The Court of Appeals of Maryland reviewed the evidence and determined that summary judgment was not appropriate under these specific facts. The court acknowledged that it was expanding the existing duty of manufacturers and was careful to limit this expansion.

The court relied on the fact that at the time the pumps were manufactured, an asbestos gasket was the only viable option for the pumps, given the extreme heat that was generated by the pumps. In fact, the original gaskets that came with the pump contained asbestos but were replaced by other Navy machinists prior to the plaintiff’s husband’s tenure.

The court heavily considered the “foreseeability” of harm in this case, and it ultimately determined that it counseled in favor of finding a duty owed to those who worked on the pumps. The court was comfortable making this determination because, although the specific part that caused the injuries in this case was not manufactured by the defendant, the defendant manufactured the pump that required the use of the dangerous part.

Have You Been Injured by a Dangerous Product?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured after dealing with or handling a dangerous product, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for your injuries. There are several legal theories by which a manufacturer may be held liable for the goods they allow to enter the stream of commerce, each with varying elements that must be proven. To learn more about this complex area of the law, call 410-654-3600 to set up a free consultation with a dedicated Maryland products liability attorney.

More Blog Posts:

New Research Suggests Amateur Athletes May Also Be at Risk for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, December 17, 2015

Ski Injury Plaintiff’s Case Dismissed for Lack of Causation, a Critical Element in Any Negligence Case, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, December 10, 2015

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