Supreme Court Finds Duty to Warn of Potential Asbestos Exposure and Adopts a Required Part Standard in Maritime Toxic Tort Context

March 28, 2019
Maria C. Salvemini

Last week, the United States Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision held that in the maritime toxic tort context, a product manufacturer has a duty to warn when its product requires asbestos components to be subsequently incorporated into the product for it to properly function.  Air & Liquid Sys. Corp. v. DeVries, No. 17-1104, slip op. at 9-10 (U.S. Mar. 19, 2019).  The products at issue – shipping components including pumps, blowers, and turbines – required the addition of asbestos insulation or asbestos parts to properly function.  The plaintiffs, two Navy veterans, were exposed to asbestos in the shipping components, and alleged that this exposure caused them to develop cancer.  Although the Supreme Court’s decision is limited to the maritime toxic tort context, the DeVries decision will nevertheless cause many product manufacturers pause as they consider their obligations for issuing appropriate warnings for products that they know will ultimately have asbestos or other hazardous materials integrated into the product before it reaches an end-user.

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