The Supreme Court is considering a consolidated action presenting questions of liability for asbestos injuries caused by bare-metal products. “Bare-metal” in the products liability context describes products sold without asbestos-containing materials, such as insulation, but which depend upon those materials for safe and proper operation. The court may avoid making waves in the realm of products liability, however, as it is dealing with claims arising under maritime law. The court will determine whether, under maritime law, manufacturers can be held liable for injuries caused by asbestos-containing products that they did not make, sell or distribute but that were necessary additions to their products.
Manufacturers often rely on the “bare-metal” defense. They assert that manufacturers who produced “bare-metal” products that relied on later-added materials for proper operation are not liable for injuries caused by those secondary products. The court will decide if the defense should be applied as a bright-line rule or through a fact-specific analysis.
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