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Appeals Court Dismisses Worker’s Products Liability Claim for Mesothelioma

A New York appeals court dismissed a scrap metal worker’s claim for mesothelioma stemming from dismantling steam systems in vacant buildings.  The worker sued the William Powell Company for products liability.  Powell manufactured valves that contained asbestos in their packing and gaskets.  In rejecting the claim, the court said that even if the valves were defectively designed, the worker’s injuries did not result from an intended or unintended but reasonable foreseeable use of the valves.  The case presented a novel issue in New York, namely, whether the “dismantling” of a product presents a foreseeable use.  Looking to decisions from other states, the New York appeals court ruled that dismantling was not a foreseeable use of a product.  The decision could have far ranging consequences.

In order to establish a claim for products liability, it is necessary to show that the defendant sold or distributed a product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer, that the seller or distributor is engaged in the business of selling or distributing such products, that the product reaches the user or consumer without substantial change in the condition in which it was sold, and that the injury to the user results when the product is used for its intended purpose or for an unintended but reasonably foreseeable purpose.  For example, although a chair is intended for sitting, it is foreseeable that a user may stand on it to get something down from a height.  If a chair collapsed while someone were standing on it, the manufacturer would not be able to defend the case by saying that standing on a chair were an unforeseeable use.

Products liability cases are complex.  If you or someone close to you is injured by a defective product and thinking of bringing an action for products liability, make sure to consult with attorneys experienced in such matters, like the attorneys at Barasch McGarry Salzman & Penson.

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