Petitpas v. Ford Motor Co.

An employer owed no duty of care to an employee’s steady, non-live-in girlfriend to protect against transmission of asbestos dust on employee’s clothing; gas station, which did occasional car repairs, was not sufficiently in the stream of asbestos-containing products so as to incur strict liability for those products.  This decision declines to extend Kesner v. Superior Court (2016) 1 Cal.5th 1132 and so does not allow a steady non-live-in girlfriend to recover from boyfriend’s employer for allowing transmission of asbestos dust on boyfriend’s and other workers’ clothing, through which plaintiff girlfriend was exposed to the carcinogen and contracted mesothelioma.  A gas station and its owner, Exxon, were not sufficiently in the stream of distribution of asbestos-containing brakes, gaskets and clutches.  The gas station did not manufacture or sell the asbestos-containing parts, but bought them from third parties and installed them in cars when performing car repairs.  To be strictly liable for another’s products, the defendant (1) must have received a direct financial benefit from sale of the product, (2) played a role that was integral to the business enterprise, a necessary factor in bringing the product to the consumer, and (3) had control or substantial influence over the manufacturing process.  Bay Summit Community Assn. v. Shell Oil Co. (1996) 51 Cal.App.4th 762.  The gas station didn’t satisfy those criteria, particularly the last one, unlike the large drywall contractor which was the defendant in Hernandezcueva v. E. F. Brady Co., Inc. (2015) 243 Cal.App.4th 249.  Ford could not be held strictly liable for asbestos-containing brake shoes manufactured by others merely because its cars were compatible with the use of those brake shoes.  Nothing about the design of the cars required use of asbestos-contained brakes shoes as opposed to other types of brake shoes.

 

Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 4 (Collins, J.); July 5, 2017; 2017 WL 2859760

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