A woman used to wash the clothes of her father, a retired employee of a city water department. Gray dust covered his attire, which she often shook off, unknowingly creating a toxic cloud. This process began when the woman was eight years old, and now, years later, she’s seeking compensation from the manufacturer whose pipes contained the source of the gray dust – asbestos.
Having developed malignant pleural mesothelioma, she filed a suit against the company providing supplies to her father’s employer. The trial court dismissed her case when the company asked for summary judgment. She then sought justice through Georgia’s Court of Appeals, which overturned the trial court’s decision. The case moved up the chain to Georgia’s highest court.
The Supreme Court reviewed the personal injury suit, noting that it had merit but not on the foundation provided in the initial case. The plaintiff made a failure-to-warn claim, assuming that the pipe maker was obligated to warn people of possible asbestos contamination. The Supreme Court asserted the trial court’s decision and eliminated the claim because the company “could not have had a duty to warn someone whose contact with the product could not be foreseen.”
The Court did, however, support the plaintiff’s other claim regarding defective design. The Supreme Court agreed with the intermediary court’s ruling, which stated that the case was originally dismissed because the trial court applied the wrong case law. The more suitable case for this claim includes a risk-utility test, which assesses “the reasonableness of a product design given the probability and seriousness of safety hazards.” The case used by the trial court relies on an employer’s duty to maintain a safe place to work without regard to third parties.
Georgia’s Supreme Court supported the plaintiff’s right to sue the pipe manufacturer.