Fire Door Manufacturer Obtains Summary Judgment in NYCAL; No Duty to Warn Against Latent Dangers from Unforeseeable Use of Product Supreme Court of New York, January 30, 2017

Defendants International Paper Company and Owens-Illinois, Inc. moved for summary judgment, which was granted. All Craft Fabricators, Inc. was hired to do millwork in refurbishing the United Nations headquarters. The general contractor issued a change order to use salvaged wood panels and doors from the Under-Secretary General’s office. These materials were resized and cut for use as interior cabinets at the United Nations building. External testing performed by All Craft showed that the dust from these materials contained asbestos.

An affidavit from a professional engineer stated that the asbestos in these materials was neither a contaminant nor a waste, but an integral component; these doors were to be used as fire doors. The defendants moved for summary judgment based on prior New York law holding that a valve manufacturer was not liable for injuries sustained due to asbestos exposure from dismantling or salvaging scrap metal from valves. The defendants argued that this was salvage work. The plaintiffs argued the defendants failed to provide any admissible evidence sufficient to establish summary judgment, as various items — a letter from the United Nations office, the change order, and an OSHA investigation report — were hearsay. The plaintiffs thus argued the defendants failed to establish that the refurbishment work was an unforeseeable use of their product.

The court agreed that while many of the documents were inadmissible, the engineer’s affidavit established that All Craft cut the panels with saws and blades. Although the plaintiffs submitted affidavits regarding the meaning of the term “salvaged,” this did not change the fact that as part of refurbishing, the materials were cut with saws and blades. The court stated: “… a manufacturer has no duty to warn against latent dangers that do not result from foreseeable uses of its product… Defendants have proved that Plaintiffs did not use defendants’ product in a way it was intended or in a reasonably foreseeable manner. Cutting into the wood panels and doors is not an intended use of the product.”

Read the full decision here.

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