The Second District Court of Appeal, Division Four in Los Angeles handed down a decision in an asbestos case that involved appellate issues pertaining to causes of action for strict products liability and premises liability, primary and secondary (“take-home”) exposure, liability for replacement component parts, and proper jury instructions to be given in asbestos cases on the issue of substantial factor. Joseph Petitpas v. Ford Motor Company, et al. (Cal. Ct. App., July 5, 2017, No. B245037), an opinion certified for publication on July 5, 2017, presents several factual scenarios to test a number of the decisions in the past decade that continue to shape asbestos litigation in California. Motions for summary adjudication and defense jury verdicts were affirmed for Ford Motor Company and Exxon Mobile Corporation, while the trial court’s granting of a nonsuit for defendant Rossmoor Corporation was also affirmed.
Plaintiffs Marline and Joseph Petitpas filed suit against over 30 defendants, alleging Marline’s mesothelioma was caused by exposure to asbestos from sources including, but not limited to, direct exposure from being in the presence of automotive maintenance work, secondary exposure by coming into contact with Joseph’s clothes and person after he performed automotive maintenance work, primary exposure by visiting Joseph at construction sites while he was employed as an architectural drafter for Rossmoor, and secondary exposure through contact with Joseph’s clothes and person after he visited construction sites in the course of his employment with Rossmoor. Marline passed away during the appeal.
Prior to trial, Exxon was granted summary adjudication of Plaintiffs’ strict products liability claim. Exxon, a premises defendant, demonstrated that in the course of Joseph’s work at a service station for which Exxon assumed liabilities, Joseph used replacement clutches and gaskets that came from a local independent auto parts store. Exxon also showed that Joseph used brakes obtained from a mobile brake service company that not only provided brakes but also performed brake work at the service station. Exxon’s evidence was sufficient to support an inference that the service station was not primarily in the business of supplying asbestos-containing vehicle parts. In distinguishing this case from its decision in Hernandezcueva v. E.F. Brady Company, Inc. (2015) 243 Cal.App.4th 249, the Court found the service station was a provider of services rather than a seller or distributor of asbestos-containing parts. The Court also found no relationship existed between the service station and parts manufacturers in which the station could exert any influence on product safety on the manufacturers. Exxon was not in the stream of commerce for asbestos-containing vehicle parts to the extent strict liability was warranted.
Exxon had also been granted summary adjudication relating to Plaintiffs’ claims of secondary exposure to asbestos. The trial court applied Campbell v. Ford Motor Co. (2012) 206 Cal.App.4th 15 and found that Exxon was a property owner that had no duty to protect family members of workers on its premises from secondary exposure to asbestos used during the court of the property owner’s business. During
Continue Reading Petitpas v. Ford Motor Co., et al.: A Look at the Evolving Landscape of Asbestos Litigation in California