Duty to Warn Recognized in Maritime Tort Context

In a case extensively covered by the Asbestos Case Tracker blog the US. Supreme Court examined a multi-district asbestos product liability action. In the claim, widows of deceased veterans brought negligence and strict liability action against several defendants, including manufacturers of engines and other equipment installed on Navy ships, alleging veterans developed cancer due to exposure to asbestos on board Navy ships. Following remand from the court of appeals, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted manufacturers’ motions for summary judgment. The widows appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, who affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded.  The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to respond to the following question: Can products-liability defendants be held liable under maritime law for injuries caused by products they did not make, sell, or distribute?

The court, in an opinion written by Justice Kavanaugh, held that in the maritime tort context, a product manufacturer has a duty to warn when (1) its product requires incorporation of a part, (2) the manufacturer knows or has a reason to know that the integrated product is likely to be dangerous for its intended uses, and (3) the manufacturer has no reason to believe that the product’s users will realize that danger.