June 12, 2020

Whether Asbestos-Containing Components Were Manufactured by Third Parties No Longer Matters in New Jersey

Faegre Drinker on Products

Aligning with neighboring New York, and clearing up conflict within the Appellate Division, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled equipment manufacturers can be held strictly liable on the basis of failure to warn for asbestos-containing component parts made or supplied by third parties. Whelan v. Armstrong Int’l, Inc., (N.J. 6/3/20).

The Court in Whelan affirmed the New Jersey Appellate Division’s denial of summary judgment and remanded the case to the trial court. In doing so, the Court held that manufacturers and distributors may be found strictly liable for failure to warn of the dangers of their products, including their asbestos-containing components and a third-party’s replacement components, provided that a plaintiff can prove all of the following:

  • The manufacturers or distributors incorporated asbestos-containing components in their original products
  • The asbestos-containing components were integral to the product and necessary for it to function
  • Routine maintenance of the product required replacing the original asbestos-containing components with similar asbestos-containing components
  • The exposure to the asbestos-containing components or replacement components was a substantial factor in causing or exacerbating the plaintiff’s disease.

Justice Albin authored the majority opinion. Chief Justice Rabner and Justices LaVecchia, Solomon, and Timpone joined in Justice Albin’s opinion. Justice Patterson filed a dissent, in which Justice Fernandez-Vina joined.

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