Abate v. AAF McQuay Inc.
A manufacturer of a non-asbestos containing product that has many purposes and is intended for use in a variety of places may not owe a duty to warn about the hazards of asbestos. Allegedly, the decedent's spouse worked as a mechanic, and the decedent worked alongside her husband and contracted mesothelioma as a result of her exposure to products that contained asbestos. The plaintiff estate administrator alleged that the defendant manufacturer owed a duty to warn, because medical and scientific data available in the 1930s indicated that asbestos was harmful to health and safety. The defendant, Milton Industries Inc., moved for summary judgment and argued that Milton's product, a multi-purpose blow gun, did not contain asbestos, and Milton was not required to warn about asbestos in other companies' products. The plaintiff estate administrator objected that the blow guns that Milton Industries produced were designed and advertised to be used with motor-vehicle parts that contained asbestos. A product seller can be legally responsible, if the plaintiff proves, by a fair preponderance of the evidence, that a product was defective, adequate warnings or instructions were not provided, and the plaintiff was harmed, pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes 52-572q(a). In O'Neil v. Crane, the California Supreme Court wrote, "[I]t is unfair to require manufacturers of nondefective products to shoulder a burden of liability when they derived no economic benefit from the sale of the products that injured the plaintiff." The Connecticut Superior Court agreed with the California Supreme Court that "a manufacturer of a multi-purpose, non-asbestos containing product" should not be held legally responsible for the products of other manufacturers that contain asbestos. The plaintiff's evidence established that Milton's product was intended for a variety of purposes and marketed to businesses and homeowners. The court found that the plaintiff failed to establish a genuine issue of material fact with respect to whether Milton Industries owed the plaintiff's decedent a duty to warn about the defendant's multi-purpose blow gun. "[T]he defendant," wrote the court, "did not owe a duty to warn." The court granted Milton Industries' motion for summary judgment.