Maryland Court Declines to Find Manufacturer Liable for Household Exposure to Asbestos Dust

The untimely death of loved one can be especially tragic if it was likely preventable.  In a November 2, 2018 case, the surviving daughters and estate of the decedent filed a Maryland wrongful death action against an asbestos product manufacturer after their mother passed away from malignant mesothelioma.  The manufacturer supplied asbestos products to the company that employed the decedent’s husband, who used them for over thirty years in the course of his job.  The asbestos products created dust that covered his clothes at the end of the work day.

In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs alleged that their mother’s malignant mesothelioma was caused by her exposure to asbestos fibers from the defendant’s products when she shook out and washed her husband’s clothing every day.  For the defendant to be held liable for its negligence, the defendant must have had a responsibility, or duty, to the victim to act accordingly.  The plaintiffs in the case claimed that the defendant was negligent in failing to warn the decedent of the harm caused by asbestos exposure.

After the plaintiffs presented their proof at trial, the defendant moved for judgment.  The defendant argued that the plaintiffs had failed to prove that it owed a legal duty to warn household members of the dangers of asbestos exposure.  The trial court agreed and entered judgment in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiffs appealed.

On appeal, the court examined previous Maryland asbestos cases and identified a two-part test to establish duty.  In a household member’s action against an asbestos manufacturer for failure to warn, as here, the court weighs the foreseeability of the harm against several policy-based factors, including the relationship between the parties and the feasibility of providing warnings.  In reviewing the evidence, the court gave less weight to the foreseeability of harm and more weight to the other policy factors.

With respect to the feasibility of warnings, the court considered the ability of the defendant to warn the decedent.  In so doing, the court rejected the plaintiffs’ contention that a duty to warn was extended to the decedent by reason of her relationship to her husband, and instead focused on her relationship to the defendant.  The court concluded that it was not feasible for the defendant to notify household members who had no connection with the product.  The court went on to find that, even if the defendant had warned the decedent’s husband of asbestos exposure, there was no evidence demonstrating how the warning would have been effective in limiting the decedent’s exposure.  The court therefore affirmed the judgment for the defendants.

The Maryland injury lawyers at Foran & Foran, P.A. are committed to assisting plaintiffs who are pursing civil justice against negligent parties.  We can handle personal injury and wrongful death claims arising out of motor vehicle collisions, medical malpractice, and other harmful accidents.  Call our office today at (301) 441-2022 or contact us online to schedule a free legal consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Court of Appeals Holds Pipefitter May Sue Corporation Decades After Asbestos Exposure, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published May 18, 2018

Maryland Wrongful Death Action Filed Against Home Warranty Company and Its Contractors After Deaths from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published August 28, 2018