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Georgia Court Dismisses Negligent Failure to Warn Claim Against Local Vendor, But Not Manufacturer


Georgia Court Dismisses Negligent Failure to Warn Claim Against Local Vendor, But Not Manufacturer

Court of Appeals of Georgia, July 16, 2015

In this case, the plaintiff claimed she was exposed to asbestos through laundering her father’s clothing. There was testimony that her father worked with insulated piping manufactured by CertainTeed Corp. and supplied by a local vendor, Davis Meter and Supply Company. The lower court granted summary judgment to CertainTeed and Water Applications Distribution Group, the successor to Davis Meter and Supply, claiming that there was no duty to warn. On appeal, the Court of Appeals of Georgia held that there were factual issues regarding CertainTeed’s level of knowledge that warranted denial of its summary judgment motion: “Applying this law to the facts of [*17] this case, we conclude that whether CertainTeed had a duty to warn of the risks of its asbestos-containing water pipe remains a question for the jury to resolve. Fletcher presented some evidence that, prior to and during the period that Fletcher’s father was actively working with its pipe, CertainTeed had actual or constructive knowledge of the following: (1) asbestos is a hazardous substance that causes mesothelioma; (2) asbestos dust may be released from its asbestos-containing cement water pipe during the ordinary use of that product; (3) the asbestos dust may be deposited on the work clothing of those using the pipe; (4) workers who are unaware of the risks of asbestos dust may unwittingly expose others, in this case family members, to that dust. Because the facts adduced with respect to CertainTeed’s knowledge are disputed and because questions concerning foreseeability are typically for the jury, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment to CertainTeed on Fletcher’s negligent failure towarn claim.”

However, the court also ruled that summary judgment was properly granted to Water Applications because there was no proof it had the same level of knowledge as the manufacturer: “In this case, Fletcher has presented no evidence from which the fact-finder could reasonably infer that Water Applications was aware that the pipe contained no warning labels affixed by the manufacturer. There is no evidence that the pipe was ever in its possession. Further, all of the evidence that Fletcher adduced with respect to the dangers associated with asbestos dust released from the water pipe pertained to knowledge that CertainTeed, as the manufacturer of the product, would have had. Fletcher has not presented evidence from which a jury could infer that, at the time of sale, Water Applications had constructive knowledge of the hazards associated with asbestos dust residue released from CertainTeed’s water pipe. Consequently, the trial court did not err in granting summary judgment to Water Applications on Fletcher’s negligent failure-to-warn claim.”

Read the full decision here.

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