Lockwood v. AC & S, Inc – Case Brief Summary (Washington)

In Lockwood v. AC & S, Inc., 109 Wn.2d 235, 744 P.2d 605 (Wash. 1987), Albert Lockwood was employed in shipyards in the Puget Sound area from 1942 until he took a disability retirement in 1972. During that time, an asbestos-containing product manufactured by the corporate predecessor to Raymark Industries (Raymark) was used in the shipyards.

In 1979, Lockwood was diagnosed with asbestosis. Thereafter, Lockwood and his wife initiated suit against Raymark and eighteen other defendants to recover for injuries he sustained from exposure to asbestos-containing products. A jury returned a verdict in favor of the Lockwoods.

On appeal, Raymark argued that evidence of its knowledge of the hazards of asbestos acquired after Lockwood's last exposure was irrelevant, "because there was no continuing duty to warn Lockwood of the dangers of asbestos after he was no longer exposed to the product." Lockwood, 744 P.2d at 618.

In rejecting Raymark's position and affirming the relevance of the evidence, the Washington Supreme Court said:

We believe that where a person's susceptibility to the danger of a product continues after that person's direct exposure to the product has ceased, the manufacturer still has a duty after exposure to exercise reasonable care to warn the person of known dangers, if the warning could help to prevent or lessen the harm. Such a warning should be required to the extent practicable. Thus, it will depend on the circumstances if a warning to previous users of the product must be made by direct personal contact with such users. Alternative warning methods which may be reasonable in a given situation might include notices to physicians or advertisements. Id. at 619.