The Washington Supreme Court has ruled that the manufacturers of respirators may be liable for failing to warn a shipyard worker of the risk of exposure to asbestos dust while cleaning the devices. A shipyard tool keeper was responsible for cleaning the equipment used by workers, including respirators manufactured by the Defendants. The respirators were worn to filter various contaminants from the air, including asbestos.
The Plaintiff, who suffered from mesothelioma, alleged that the manufacturers had a duty to warn of the dangers of asbestos exposure when cleaning the used respirators and filters. The state’s intermediate appellate court dismissed the suit, holding that the manufacturers had no duty to warn the Plaintiff. But the Supreme Court reversed that ruling.
Although the Defendants did not manufacture the asbestos, they “manufactured the very products that posed the risk to [the Plaintiff] of asbestos exposure,” the Court said. The respirators were specifically designed to and intended to filter contaminants from the air breathed by the wearer, including asbestos, the Court noted, and they were also designed to be reused in contaminated environments. The Court wrote:
[I]n order to reuse them as they were intended to be reused, the asbestos had to be removed. … [The defendants] were clearly in the chain of distribution of these products – respirators that necessarily and purposefully accumulated asbestos in them when they functioned exactly as they were planned to function. It does not matter that the respirator manufacturers were not in the chain of distribution of products containing asbestos when manufactured.
This decision is good for workers and makes it clear that companies such as these Defendants, which don’t actually manufacturer the asbestos, also have legal responsibility to victims hurt by asbestos.
Source: Lawyers USA Online
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