No Asbestos Liability For Black & Decker’s General-Use Tools, Judge Says

by Tara Arick on February 5, 2013 · 0 comments

in Contract Law,Product Liability

- From LexisNexis® Mealey’s™ Daily Legal News.

Black & Decker Inc. cannot be liable for a mechanic’s wife’s exposure to asbestos from the use of its general-use grinders and shop vacuums, a Connecticut judge held Jan. 29 (Joseph Abate Jr., et al. v. AAF-McQuay Inc., et al., No. CV 10-6006228 S, Conn. Super., Fairfield at Bridgeport Dist.).

While Joseph Abate Jr. claims that the manufacturer designed its products specifically for use with asbestos-containing automotive parts, he presented no evidence supporting such allegations, Fairfield at Bridgeport Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara N. Bellis said.

Abate sued various asbestos defendants, alleging that between 1962 and 1990, he came into contact with asbestos-containing products at his car repair garage. Abate claimed that he carried the asbestos home with him, eventually exposing his late wife, Sharon Abate, leading to her mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. The decedent also allegedly suffered exposure while accompanying her husband to his garage.

Black & Decker Inc. and Black & Decker U.S. Inc., sued for their grinding machines, bench grinders and shop vacuum, moved for summary judgment.

Judge Bellis first said she could find no state appellate law addressing a manufacturers’ liability for injuries caused by products used in conjunction with their own.

O’Neil, Macias

Relying on the analysis and reasoning in O’Neil v. Crane Co. (53 Cal.4th 335, 266 P.3d 987, 135 Cal. Rptr. 3d 288 [2012]), Judge Bellis said the function of the tools Abate used were varied and did not fall into the exceptions articulated in O’Neil.

Nor are the general-use grinders and vacuums at issue here similar to the hazard-trapping respirators the Washington State Supreme Court found “inherently” and “invariably” pose a danger inMacias v. Saberhagen Holdings Inc. (175 Wn. 2d 402, 282 P.3d 1064 [2012]), Judge Bellis said.

Absent evidence that the Black & Decker products at issue were specifically designed for use with asbestos or asbestos-containing products, they do not fall under the analysis of Macias, Judge Bellis said.

Judge Bellis granted Black & Decker’s motion, saying on this evidence, Black & Decker met its burden, and Abate has not demonstrated the existence of a disputed factual issue, Judge Bellis said.

James F. Early of Early, Lucarelli, Sweeney & Meisenkothen in New Haven, Conn., represents Abate. Joseph W. Hovermill of Miles & Stockbridge in Baltimore represents Black & Decker.

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