Abate v. Advanced Auto Parts Inc.
A manufacturer of a multi-purpose, nonasbestos containing product may not be legally responsible for the alleged harm caused by the products of other manufacturers that contain 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 defendants owed the duty to warn, because medical and scientific data available in the 1930s indicated that asbestos was harmful to health and safety. The defendant, Hennessy Industries, moved for summary judgment and argued its products contained no asbestos, and it did not owe the duty to warn about asbestos in the products of other manufacturers, because it did not place them in the stream of commerce. The plaintiff objected that the defendant allegedly conceded its brake grinders, which ground asbestos-containing brake linings, emitted substantial quantities of asbestos dust that exposed workers to hazardous amounts of asbestos. A product seller can be legally responsible, if the plaintiff proves, by a fair preponderance of the evidence, that a product was defective, that adequate warnings or instructions were not provided, and that the plaintiff was harmed, pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes §52-572q(a). A product may be defective solely because a manufacturer failed to provide adequate warnings or instructions, pursuant to Gajewski v. Pavelo, a 1996 decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court. 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." A genuine issue of material fact existed with respect to whether the brake grinders were meant to be used as multi-purpose grinders for products that did not contain asbestos, or whether the sole use was in conjunction with asbestos-containing brakes and brake linings. The court denied the defendant's motion for summary judgment.