Delaware Take-Home Summary Judgment Reversed for Paper Manufacturers

DELAWARE — Decedent Dorothy Ramsey’s husband Robert Ramsey worked as a maintenance worker at Haveg Industries, Inc. from 1967 to 1992, and allegedly handled asbestos products manufactured by defendants Herty and Hollingsworth and Vose (together, the manufacturers) on a regular basis. The plaintiff alleged that Mrs. Ramsey developed her fatal lung cancer from regularly laundering Mr. Ramsey’s clothes which were contaminated with asbestos dust emanating from his use of the manufacturers’ products, among others. The trial court had granted the manufacturers’ summary judgment motions, finding that they had no duty to warn Decedent of the dangers of asbestos pursuant to prior Delaware authority. This court reversed and remanded the grant of summary judgment.

The court reasoned that the risk of harm from washing asbestos-covered work clothing was foreseeable, and that Mrs. Ramsey had a viable claim against manufacturers who failed to warn of these harms and provide “safe laundering instructions to an employer that exposes its employees to the manufacturer’s asbestos products.” They acknowledged the manufacturers’ “sophisticated purchaser” arguments and found further that Mrs. Ramsey’s viable claims only are appropriate if the manufacturers failed to give warnings and safe laundering instructions to Mr. Ramsey’s employer, who was in a better position to pass along the warnings/instructions. The ruling effectively overruled two prior Delaware Supreme Court decisions regarding take-home exposure.

Read the full case decision here.