Thursday, January 31, 2013

Brisboy v. Fireboard Paper Products Corporation case brief

Brisboy v. Fireboard Paper Products Corporation case summary
384 N.W.2d 39 (Mich. Ct. App. 1986)
Tort Law


The corporation (D) went to the court, seeking review of a trial court order (MI). 
The trial court entered a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff (decedent's) personal representative on his negligence claim.
The personal representative had cross appealed the exclusion of evidence that related to various worker's compensation claims that were brought against the corporation for asbestos outside of the state. 


-The decedent died of lung cancer.
-It was said that his death was caused by 26 years of working with asbestos.
-It was also found that the decedent smoked two packs of cigarettes per day for the previous 30 years.
-A doctor testified that cigarette smoking does not increase an asbestos worker's risk of developing lung cancer.
-A jury verdict found that a corporation's negligence in failing to warn the decedent of the danger of working with asbestos was the proximate cause of his death.
-The court affirmed the verdict.

-The court found that the decedent's autopsy indicated that he died from cancer resulting from asbestosis and that there was a massive amount of asbestos in his lungs.


It was found that while the personal representative could not have directly proven that the corporation's asbestos fibers caused the disease that led to the decedent's death, the personal representative was able to establish that during the time the decedent worked with the corporation's products, the air was full of dust and that when dust from asbestos is visible, it implied that there was an extreme exposure.
-The court concluded that reasonable minds could have found that the decedent had indeed inhaled asbestos fibers.
-Although the decedent would have been contributory negligent with regard to lung cancer that was caused solely by his cigarette smoking, here there was no indication on the record that he was aware or should have been aware of the risk of cigarette smoking as it related to asbestos and asbestos-related lung cancer.


-Under Michigan law, an actor will not be held liable for his negligent conduct unless that conduct is a legal or proximate cause of the harm to the plaintiff.
-There may be more than one proximate cause of an injury, and thus the mere fact that some other cause concurs, contributes, or cooperates to produce an injury does not relieve any of the parties whose negligent conduct is one of the causes of the plaintiff's harm.
-An actor's negligent conduct will not be a legal or proximate cause of the harm to another unless that conduct is a substantial factor in bringing about the harm.
-One of the considerations in determining whether an actor's conduct is a substantial factor in bringing about the harm to another is the number of other factors which contribute in producing the harm and the extent of the effect which they have in producing it.
-Where a number of events each contribute to the ultimate harm, one may have such a predominant effect as to make the effect of a particular actor's negligence insignificant.
-On the other hand, where none of the contributing factors has a predominant effect, their combined effect may act to dilute the effect of the actor's negligence and prevent it from becoming a substantial factor in bringing about the harm.

CONCLUSION: The court affirmed the jury verdict.  The jury found in favor of the personal representative on his negligence claim.

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