The Lawletter Vol 41 No 7
New York's highest court recently addressed the issue of whether an automobile manufacturer could be held strictly liable for a mechanic's malignant mesothelioma allegedly caused by the mechanic's exposure to asbestos while replacing asbestos-containing brakes, clutches, and engine parts in the manufacturer's automobiles. See Finerty v. Abex Corp., 2016 N.Y. slip op. 03411, 2016 WL 1735804 (N.Y. May 3, 2016). The plaintiff claimed that he was exposed to asbestos during the 1970s and 1980s while working on engine parts in tractors and passenger vehicles manufactured by the defendant, Ford Motor Company. The plaintiff was later diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma. The plaintiff sued Ford and others alleging strict products liability under theories of defective design and failure to warn.
The New York Court of Appeals concluded that Ford could not be held liable under the plaintiff's theories. At the threshold, the court noted that a manufacturer of defective products which places those products into the stream of commerce may be held strictly liable for injuries caused by its products, since it is the manufacturer alone who (a) can fairly be said to know and to understand when a product is suitably designed and safely made for its intended purpose, and (b) has the practical opportunity to produce safe products. The court observed that product sellers are subject to strict liability with respect to allegedly defective products because they may be said to have assumed a special responsibility to the public, which has come to expect them to stand behind their products.Read More