Braaten v. Saberhagen Holdings
In Braaten v. Saberhagen Holdings (2008) 165 Wn.2d 373, the defendants manufactured pumps and valves sold to the Navy for use aboard naval ships. The defendants did not manufacture the asbestos-containing insulation which the Navy used to insulate the defendants' products and did not manufacture asbestos-containing packing and gaskets originally contained within the defendants' products. Plaintiff Braaten worked as a pipefitter on Navy ships from 1967 to 2002.
In 2003, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma allegedly resulting from his exposure to asbestos when he performed maintenance on pumps and valves manufactured by the defendants. Braaten's work required removal of exterior asbestos-containing insulation and reapplication of insulation, and removal of old asbestos-containing packing and replacement of that packing. Asbestos gaskets and packing usually had to be ground, scraped, or chipped off, which released respirable asbestos. Braaten testified that he never installed or worked on pumps when they were new and was not exposed to asbestos when others installed new pumps. It was not possible to tell how many times original packing and gaskets in valves and pumps had been replaced with packing and gaskets manufactured by other companies. (Id., 198 P.3d at p. 496.)
The Court held: "[A] manufacturer is not liable for failure to warn of the danger of exposure to asbestos in insulation applied to its products if it did not manufacture the insulation and was not in the chain of distribution of the insulation. It makes no difference whether the manufacturer knew its products would be used in conjunction with asbestos insulation." (Braaten, supra, 198 P.3d at p. 498.) Plaintiff Braaten had not presented sufficient evidence to withstand summary judgment as to whether the defendants manufactured, sold, or were otherwise in the chain of distribution of asbestos-containing insulation applied to their products. Braaten therefore found the defendant manufacturers were not liable for failure to warn of the danger of exposure during maintenance of their products to asbestos-containing insulation manufactured and supplied by third parties. (Id. at p. 500.)
With regard to asbestos in packing and gaskets, the evidence did not establish that Braaten was exposed to asbestos-containing packing or gaskets in products when they were originally supplied by the defendants, as distinct from his exposure to asbestos-containing packing and gaskets which the defendants did not design, manufacture, specify, or supply. Thus plaintiff Braaten had not established the required connection between his injury and the defendants' products, and the defendant therefore had no duty to warn of hazards of asbestos-containing packing and gaskets in or connected to their pumps and valves. (Id. at p. 503.)