Manufacturer Owes No Duty To Warn of Asbestos Danger from Another’s Product Foreseeably Used With Its Own

A wrongful death suit was filed by the family of a mechanic who died from asbestosis and asbestos-related lung cancer. The decedent had worked as an auto mechanic. In the course of his work he repaired and installed asbestos-containing brake parts. To repair these parts the decedent used machines manufactured by the defendant. The machines contained no asbestos but were designed to reshape brake parts that might contain asbestos. The defendant’s machines did not require asbestos-containing brake parts to operate, nor did any asbestos-containing brake parts require the defendant’s machines in order to function.


The plaintiffs argued it was foreseeable that the defendant’s machines would be used with asbestos-containing brake parts, so the defendant had a duty to warn users of the potential danger.


The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, ruling that the plaintiffs could not prevail either under a strict liability or negligence theory because the undisputed evidence showed that any harm was caused by products containing asbestos and not the defendant’s machines.


The plaintiffs appealed. The appellate court affirmed, holding that there is no duty to warn about dangers arising entirely from another manufacturer’s product, even if it is foreseeable - but not intended and inevitable - that the products will be used together. The court distinguished the facts from situations where a risk is created by the intended and necessary operation of a product with another’s asbestos-containing product.


See: Barker v. Hennessy Industries, Inc., 2012 WL 1850538 (Cal.App. 2 Dist.  May 22, 2012) (not designated for publication).