One of the requirements to establish a negligence claim is a duty on the part of a defendant owed to the victim. In a recent opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland analyzed the scope of the duty to warn as it applies to a manufacturer of asbestos-containing products. In the case, the circuit court granted summary judgment against the plaintiffs, who subsequently appealed the matter.
In this case, the plaintiff’s father worked in powerhouses where the defendant installed insulation and cement that contained asbestos. The installation of these products created dust-containing asbestos fibers that would accumulate on the father’s clothing. From 1962 to 1972, the plaintiff lived in a small trailer home with his parents, in close contact with the clothing and the laundry machine that washed the clothing. In 2014, the plaintiff was diagnosed with mesothelioma. The plaintiffs brought negligence and strict liability claims against the business that installed the asbestos-containing products, based on a failure to warn.
The defendant relied on a previous case, Georgia Pacific, LLC v. Farrar, in which the Maryland Court of Appeals held that a manufacturer or distributor of an asbestos product did not owe a duty to warn the household member of a worker-bystander present at facilities where the product was installed prior to 1972, since there was no practical way that a warning could have avoided the danger to the household member. The plaintiffs argued that the Farrar holding did not apply because in the present case, the father had access to commercial laundering facilities that specialized in cleaning industrial clothing, there were changing rooms at his workplace, and he would have heeded a warning of the dangers of household exposure.