Air & Liquid Systems Corp. v. Devries, 139 S. Ct. 986 (2019)

U.S. Supreme Court sets forth new test for product manufacturer’s duty to warn under maritime law.

This maritime tort law case involved Navy veterans claiming they developed cancer as a result of asbestos exposure on Navy ships and in naval shipyards. The plaintiffs sued certain equipment manufacturers whose original products did not contain asbestos. However, certain parts containing asbestos and made by third-parties were added to the equipment manufacturers’ products. The issue was whether product liability defendants may be held liable for injuries caused by parts not made, sold or distributed by such defendants. The U.S. Supreme Court adopted a new three-part standard for the imposition of a duty to warn. First, a duty to warn arises when a manufacturer’s product requires incorporation of a part in order for the original product to work. Second, the manufacturer must know or have reason to know that the incorporated part is likely to be dangerous. Third, the manufacturer must have no reason to believe that the product’s end users would know of the danger. In such instances, product manufacturers in the maritime context now have a duty to warn of potentially-dangerous third-party parts that are added to the manufacturers’ product.


Case Law Alerts, 3rd Quarter, July 2019

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