Originally published in Law360, New York on October 19, 2012.
The Washington Supreme Court recently ruled that manufacturers of safety products have a duty to warn of the dangers of asbestos exposure inherent in the use and maintenance of those products. The case, Macias v. Saberhagen Holdings, 282 P.3d 1069 (2012), was decided 5 to 4 and seemingly marks the beginning of the erosion of the Simonetta and Braaten decisions, which limit the liability of manufacturers of nonasbestos-containing products.
The Macias decision involved a shipyard worker whose responsibilities included handling, maintaining and cleaning respirators that workers wore to filter out dangerous contaminants, including asbestos fibers. The plaintiffs sued the respirator manufacturers, alleging that their failure to warn that Leo Macias could be exposed to hazardous asbestos fibers caused his mesothelioma.
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