Key Decisions

June 2012 – Property Owner Did Not Owe Duty Of Care

(filed under: | June 16, 2012)

Other Cases Of Interest

A Property Owner Did Not Owe A Duty Of Care To Members Of The Family Of Workers Who Brought Asbestos Fibers Home On Their Work Clothing

Campbell v. Ford Motor Company
(Cal. Ct. of App., 2d Dist.), filed May 21, 2012, published May 21, 2012

Mary Campbell contracted mesothelioma as a result of her exposure to asbestos. The exposure resulted from laundering her father’s and brother’s asbestos-covered clothing during the time they worked with asbestos as independent contractors hired by Ford to install asbestos insulation at its Metuchen, New Jersey plant. At trial, the jury found Ford liable for 5 percent of the her damages and awarded her $40,000. Ford appealed.

The Court of Appeal reversed. It found that as a matter of law, Ford owed no duty of care to Campbell.

As to the element of a duty of care in a negligence action, the court said:

A fundamental element of any cause of action for negligence is the existence of a legal duty of care running from the defendant to the plaintiff.” The existence and scope of any such duty are legal questions for the court. “[D]uty is not an immutable fact of nature but only an expression of the sum total of those considerations of policy which lead the law to say that the particular plaintiff is entitled to protection.

The court then went on to consider whether the sum total of policy considerations supported extending a duty of care to one such as Campbell. It concluded that regardless of anything else, the considerations that would lead to the imposition of a duty of care did not lead to the imposition of one.