Washington Case Law Update: Manufacturer Has Duty to Warn If Product Required Use of Hazardous Component

Attorney Profile Case Update Template -2016 Kyle

Washington Case Law Update: Manufacturer Has Duty to Warn If Product Required Use of Hazardous Component

From the desk of Kyle Riley: Generally, a manufacturer does not have a duty to warn of risks posed by a product that the manufacturer did not itself manufacture or distribute. But where the product either required incorporated hazardous components manufactured by others at the time it was supplied or required the use of hazardous components to function, does the manufacturer have a duty to warn?

Claims Pointer: In this case arising out of a former Navy engineer’s death from alleged asbestos exposure, the Washington Court of Appeals held that summary judgment in favor of the manufacturer was inappropriate where the steam turbines at issue were shipped with asbestos-containing components and required asbestos-containing component parts to operate. The case establishes an exception to the general rule that a manufacturer has no duty to warn of risks posed by a product that the manufacturer did not manufacture or distribute. The case is an important warning to manufacturers and insurers that summary judgment is not available where a hazardous component part was shipped with the product or required for the product to function as intended.

Yuen Wing Woo (“Woo”), a former United States Navy engineer, worked around steam turbines on several different ships in the 1940s and 50s. General Electric (“GE”) designed, manufactured, and supplied the steam turbines aboard those same ships. Those steam turbines required the use of thermal heat insulation, gaskets, and packing to properly function, and at the time, only asbestos-containing insulation, gaskets, and packing were available. In 2009, Woo died of mesothelioma, and the personal representative of his Estate and his surviving spouse (collectively, “the Estate”), filed a wrongful death and personal injury lawsuit against GE.

GE moved for summary judgment on the ground that there was no evidence GE...

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