The Rhode Island Superior Court has denied a motion for summary judgment holding that a manufacturer of valves had a duty to warn about the dangers of replacement asbestos-containing gaskets and packing manufactured by third-parties.
Plaintiff alleged he was exposed to the asbestos while working on defendant's valve in the Navy from 1964 to 1968. Defendant moved for summary judgment arguing that its valves were installed on plaintiff's ship in 1958, that any gaskets or packing in or around the valves must have been replacement parts, that plaintiff had no evidence that defendant supplied the replacement parts and that it had no duty to warn of the use of asbestos-containing replacement parts manufactured by third parties.
Plaintiffs responded that the manufacturer designed, manufactured and sold the valves with asbestos-containing packing and gaskets. Moreover, the manufacturer knew that the valves would require replacement of the gaskets and packing and that it recommended and sold such replacement products to the Navy. Plaintiffs argued that in these circumstances, the manufacturer had a duty to warn of the dangers of asbestos-containing replacement parts manufactured by other companies.
The court found that the evidence presented issues of fact as to whether the dangers of the replacement parts were foreseeable to the manufacturer at the time it sold the valves to the Navy. It said a duty to warn of the dangers of third-parties' products existed when the manufacturer know its valves could not be used without the third-parties' products.
The court also found factual issues whether the manufacturer could be held strictly liable or in negligence or for breach of warranty when it sold the valves which incorporated asbestos-containing products. The court said there were issues of fact as to whether the Navy relied on the manufacturer's skill and knowledge in designing the valves and choosing replacement parts.
Sweredoski v. Alfa Laval, 2013 WL 1088826 (R.I. Super. March 7, 2013).