For years, Arthur Whelan (and after his death, his family) waged a legal battle to hold those responsible for his mesothelioma accountable. At issue was whether the original manufacturers of equipment could be found liable for harm caused by asbestos in replacement parts that their equipment needed in order to operate. After his claim was dismissed and that decision was overturned in his favor by the Appellate Division, Whelan’s case was appealed to the state’s Supreme Court by the defendants. The superior court’s decision not only cleared the way for Whelan’s case to proceed: It also set precedent for similar claims in the future.
Mesothelioma Lawsuit Hinged on Failure to Warn of Replacement Part Asbestos Risk
Arthur Whelan’s mesothelioma lawsuit was filed against dozens of companies that manufactured or distributed products integrated with asbestos-containing components. His claim was based on their failure to warn of the risks posed by the asbestos he was exposed to from either asbestos-containing components or asbestos-containing replacement components in their equipment, all of which were manufactured or supplied by third parties.
The equipment manufacturers argued that even though their products were designed to be used with the asbestos-contaminated replacement parts and could not operate without them, they had no duty to warn and should not be held liable for Whelan’s mesothelioma. The trial court agreed with the manufacturers and granted them summary judgment, dismissing the case. The Appellate Division overturned this order, saying that the defendants not only had a duty to warn, but also that they could be held strictly liable for damages resulting from their failure to do so.
Supreme Court of New Jersey Affirms Appellate Division’s Mesothelioma Decision
In handing down their decision in Whelan’s mesothelioma claim, the high court affirmed that no distinction should be made between the aggregation of all component parts and the replacement components necessary for their continued operation.
The court’s decision read in part, “The purpose of warnings is to allow a worker, like Whelan, the opportunity to take the necessary precautions, such as donning protective gear, to protect against the inhalation of deadly asbestos fibers or dust. The manufacturer or distributor of the integrated product is best situated to provide those warnings. Here, defendants provided no warnings at all.”