Key Decisions

June 2012 – Liable For Manufacturing A Defective Product

(filed under: | June 16, 2012)

Other Cases Of Interest

The Manufacturer Of A Machine That Causes Asbestos Fibers To Be Released Into The Air Can Be Liable For Manufacturing A Defective Product

Bettencourt v. Hennessy Industries, Inc.
(Cal. Ct. of App., 1st Dist.), filed May 4, 2012 

Assorted plaintiffs sued Hennessy Industries on the theory that it manufactured and sold a brake arcing machine, designed and used exclusively for grinding brake linings, which contained asbestos, thereby releasing asbestos fibers into the air, thereby causing injuries to either themselves or their decedents.

The trial court ruled that, because Hennessey’s machine itself was not made with asbestos and Hennessy did not itself manufacture or distribute any product made with asbestos, the various plaintiffs had not, and could not, plead a viable cause of action against Hennessy for negligence or strict products liability.

The Court of Appeal reversed. A different division of the court that decided the case ofShields v. Hennessy Industries, Inc., reached the same result. The court recognized that generally, a manufacturer is not liable for injuries caused by defects in another manufacturer’s products. However, it also recognized an exception when the manufacturer’s product acts upon another manufacturer’s product and thereby causes the harm.

Since Hennessy’s grinding machine acted upon asbestos containing brake shoes and caused the harm complained of, the plaintiffs could state a cause of action.