An Important Case Poses Challenges for Asbestos-Related Illness Victims in New Jersey

Asbestos is dangerous. Exposure to it in home construction materials, in consumer products or on the job can have serious health consequences, including cancer and asbestosis, a chronic respiratory disease.

Yet establishing a basis for harm caused by exposure to asbestos can raise complex legal questions. Does the case rely on personal injury law or defective product law? Does documentation exist to support a claim for asbestos exposure and injuries occurring years or even decades ago? And does homeowner’s insurance, medical insurance, business liability insurance or workers’ compensation coverage apply when someone is harmed as a result of contact with asbestos?

A recent New Jersey case further complicated asbestos injury claims in the garden state. In April of 2014, in the case, Hughes v. A.W. Chesterton Co., the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, ruled that defendants in cases involving machinery replacement parts that contain asbestos are not liable for resulting problems.

Interestingly, the court broke with a number of other states in that it imposed a “duty to warn” upon manufacturers whose products both 1) contain asbestos, and 2) will likely require the use of parts containing asbestos when repairs are needed. The court, however, ultimately decided in favor of the defendants, in this case, using the following reasoning:

  • Manufacturers are liable for injuries caused by their products
  • Manufacturers have a duty to warn consumers regarding the dangers posed by their products
  • Manufacturers have a duty to warn consumers if future repairs will likely require dangerous (i.e., in this case, asbestos-filled) products
  • Manufacturers are nonetheless not liable if resulting injuries were caused not by their product but by replacement parts manufactured by a third party, despite the duty to warn

Though plaintiffs succeed in asbestos injury claims daily in the U.S., these cases are challenging. If you have reason to believe you were harmed due to asbestos exposure and wish to pursue a claim, it is important to work with an experienced asbestos attorney.

Nagel Rice LLP has offices in New Jersey in Roseland, and Red Bank, and a third location in New York City. The firm’s experienced legal team has successfully handled hundreds of injury claims in the tri-state area and has achieved nearly $1 billion in verdicts and settlements. To discuss your asbestos injury questions with an experienced lawyer free of charge, contact us at 973-618-0400 or 212-551-1465.