Thursday, January 31, 2013

Black v. Abex Corp. case brief

Black v. Abex Corp. case summary
603 N.W.2d 182 (N.D 1999)
Tort Law

PROCEDURAL HISTORY: Plaintiff appealed an order of summary judgment in the District Court of Grand Forks County, Northeast Central Judicial District (North Dakota), dismissing her wrongful death and survival claims against numerous asbestos manufacturers.

-Plaintiff sued forty-eight asbestos manufacturers, alleging her husband's death was caused by his occupational exposure to asbestos-containing products and asserting market share and alternative liability claims.
-Plaintiff appealed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants.

-The court concluded that market share liability, premised upon the fact that defendants produced identical defective products that carry equivalent risks of harm, was inappropriate in this asbestos case as plaintiff alleged injury from exposure to many different types of asbestos products containing differing amounts of asbestos and as plaintiff could not identify any such product as causing decedent's injury.


The requirements for market-share liability appear to be (1) injury or illness occasioned by a fungible product (identical-type product) made by all of the defendants joined in the lawsuit; (2) injury or illness due to a design hazard, with each having been found to have sold the same type product in a manner that made it unreasonably dangerous; (3) inability to identify the specific manufacturer of the product or products that brought about the plaintiff's injury or illness; and (4) joinder of enough of the manufacturers of the fungible or identical product to represent a substantial share of the market

-Further, plaintiff's claim of alternative liability failed, where a crucial element is that all possible wrongdoers be brought before the court and plaintiff failed to assert that she included as defendants all possible manufacturers of asbestos-containing products to which her husband was exposed.

OUTCOME: The trial court's order of summary judgment in defendants' favor was affirmed as plaintiff could not maintain a market share liability theory where she could not establish that, in spite of product differences, the asbestos-containing products carried equivalent risks of harm.

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