Asbestos litigants have been waiting years for this decision. On January 12, 2012, a unanimous California Supreme Court released its opinion in O’Neil v. Crane Co., holding that “a product manufacturer may not be held liable in strict liability or negligence for harm caused by another manufacturer’s product unless the defendant’s own product contributed substantially to the harm, or the defendant participated substantially in creating a harmful combined use of the products.”
Defendants Crane Co. and Warren Pumps manufactured certain valves and pumps and were sued for wrongful death allegedly caused by asbestos released from external insulation and internal gaskets and packing, all of which were made by third parties and added to the pumps and valves post sale. Plaintiffs claimed the defendants should have been held strictly liable and negligent because it was foreseeable that workers would be exposed to and harmed by the asbestos in replacement parts and products used in conjunction with their pumps and valves. While the Court of Appeal ruled in plaintiffs’ favor, the California Supreme Court rejected the plaintiffs’ claim and reversed.
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