Summary Judgment Granted for Ford on Strict Liability, Punitives, and Conspiracy Claims U.S. District Court, District of Delaware December 12, 2017
DELAWARE — Asbestosis plaintiff Gerald Hickman alleged take home, bystander, and direct exposure to asbestos from, among others, defendant Ford Motor Company. Ford moved for summary judgment, which was granted in part and denied in part.
The plaintiff alleged exposure to Ford products during his work around others in garages and gas stations, from his father’s work in the family service station, and from his own repair work on his wife’s new Ford Mustang. Applying Delaware law, the court denied summary judgment as to the negligence and duty to warn claims, finding that the plaintiff’s work on original factory installed brakes that Ford knew contained asbestos presented a sufficient product nexus to defeat summary judgment.
In granting summary judgment for Ford on punitive damage claims, the court noted that the plaintiff failed to produce any evidence that Ford’s conduct was willful, wanton, or reckless. As to strict liability, the court stated: “Delaware courts have refused to extend strict liability to cases involving the sale of a product even where it is alleged that the product is inherently dangerous.” The plaintiff cited no legal argument to the contrary. Finding that Ford had “no agreements with any other defendants to suppress knowledge of the dangers of asbestos, or that they intentionally marketed their asbestos products without effective warnings,” the court granted Ford summary judgment as to conspiracy claims.