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Asbestos And The Sophisticated User

Asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuits are on the rise.  During an asbestos or mesothelioma lawsuit, defendants try to put forth various defenses to limit its liability.  And, during an asbestos and/or mesothelioma lawsuit, one such defense may revolve around asbestos and the sophisticated user defense.

Recently, the California Court of Appeal ruled In Pfeifer v. John Crane, Inc. (JCI), No. B232315 (Cal. Ct. App. Oct. 29, 2013), held that when a manufacturer provides asbestos to a sophisticated user or intermediary “that passes the goods to its employees or servants for their use, the supplier is subject to liability for a failure to warn the employees or servants of the hazards, absent some basis for the manufacturer to believe the ultimate users know or should know of the hazards” and cannot use the asbestos and the sophisticated user defense.

In this case, the facts are as follows:

  1. Beginning in 1917, JCI manufactured and sold packing used in valves and pumps, and distributed gaskets used in flanges and pipe systems.
  2. Some of these products contained asbestos.
  3. JCI sold packing and gaskets containing asbestos to the United States Navy and to the United States government.
  4. From 1963 to 1971, William Pfeifer served in the Navy.
  5. After leaving the Navy, he worked for the United States government as a boiler technician until 1982.
  6. In 2009, he was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, a type of cancer usually caused by exposure to asbestos.
  7. On June 25, 2009, the Pfeifers filed their complaint for negligence, strict liability, and loss of consortium against approximately 31 suppliers of asbestos- laden products.
  8. The complaint alleged that William Pfeifer’s mesothelioma resulted from his exposure to asbestos from the defendants’ products.
  9. The Pfeifers sought compensatory and punitive damages.

Because the defendant here presented no such evidence for the asbestos to a sophisticated user defense, the appellate court upheld the trial court’s decision not to provide a sophisticated intermediary defense instruction to the jury.  Hence, the verdict stands.

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At the Gooch Law Firm, we pride ourselves on providing our clients reliable representation for even the most challenging cases. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact our office at 1.844.329.5955.