Kase v. Metalclad Insulation Corp.

Defendant, a broker who arranged for asbestos-containing insulation products to be delivered to Naval shipyards for insulation of submarine pipes, may successfully invoke the defense contractor immunity doctrine, since the Navy’s detailed specifications could only be satisfied with asbestos-containing insulation, and the Navy had specifically studied and approved the aspect of the product—its asbestos—which was alleged to be a health risk.  Defendant acted as a broker arranging for asbestos-containing insulation products, specifically Unibestos, to be delivered to Naval shipyards for workers to use in insulating pipes aboard submarines.  The Unibestos was delivered pursuant to government contracts that did not explicitly mention asbestos or Unibestos but did contain detailed specifications that could only be satisfied with asbestos-containing insulation, and Unibestos was the only product on the Navy’s list of approved products for this application.  Also, the Navy studied the health risks of asbestos and despite some concerns continued to expressly approve Unibestos.  Held, defendant may successfully invoke the defense contractor immunity under Boyle v. United Technologies Corp. (1988) 108 S.Ct. 2510.  While Unibestos was an “off the shelf” product in the sense that it was also sold for commercial applications, the Navy’s specifications of the required insulation products were detailed, and the Navy had specifically studied and approved the aspect of the product—its asbestos—which was alleged to be a health risk.  See contra:  In re Hawaii Federal Asbestos Cases (9th Cir. 1992) 960 F.2d 806, 811.

California Court of Appeal, First District, Division 1 (Banke, J.); November 22, 2016 (partial publication); 2016 WL 6892215

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