Justia Products Liability Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of California
Webb v. Special Electric Co., Inc.
After plaintiff was injured by exposure to asbestos products, he filed suit against a raw asbestos supplier (Special Electric) for failure to warn him about the danger. At issue is the extent of the supplier's duty to warn. Under the sophisticated intermediary doctrine, the supplier can discharge this duty if it conveys adequate warnings to the material's purchaser (in this case, Johns-Manville), or sells to a sufficiently sophisticated purchaser, and reasonably relies on the purchaser to convey adequate warnings to others, including those who encounter the material in a finished product. Special Electric arguably forfeited the sophisticated intermediary defense by failing to present it to the jury. However, assuming the defense was preserved, the record does not establish as a matter of law that Special Electric discharged its duty to warn by reasonably relying on a sophisticated intermediary. The evidence is disputed about whether Special Electric consistently provided warnings to Johns-Manville during the relevant time frame; although the record clearly shows Johns-Manville was aware of the risks of asbestos in general, no evidence established it knew about the particularly acute risks posed by the crocidolite asbestos Special Electric supplied; plaintiffs presented evidence that at least one Special Electric salesperson told customers crocidolite was safer than other types of asbestos fiber, when the opposite was true; and the record does not establish as a matter of law that Special Electric actually and reasonably relied on Johns-Manville to warn end users like plaintiff about the dangers of asbestos. Accordingly, the court concluded that the trial court did not err in granting judgment notwithstanding the verdict because substantial evidence supports the jury's verdict against Special Electric. View "Webb v. Special Electric Co., Inc." on Justia Law