Ohio justices deal second blow to asbestos plaintiffs

Chris Rizo Oct. 22, 2008, 4:51pm

Evelyn Lundberg Stratton

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline)-The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the asbestos-related claim a woman made against a company that insulated the pipes at her husband's workplace.

Genevieve DiCenzo claimed the company was responsible for the 1993 death of her husband, Joseph DiCenzo, who was a longtime employee of Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Co.

His widow sought damages from more than 80 defendants, including George V. Hamilton Inc., which supplied Wheeling-Pitt with asbestos-containing pipe coverings during the 1950s.

"Imposing such a potential financial burden on these nonmanufacturing suppliers years after the fact for an obligation that was not foreseeable at the time would result in a great inequity," said Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, who wrote the court's majority opinion.

In its ruling, the state high court said in a 5-2 ruling that a 1977 state Supreme Court decision that extended product liability could not be legally applied to happenings before the court made the ruling.

Lundberg Stratton said the case failed the U.S. Supreme Court's test to determine if legal opinions can be applied retroactively.

"Products containing asbestos have not been manufactured or sold for approximately 30 years," she wrote. "The time for making these products safer has come and gone."

Last week, Ohio's high court upheld restrictions on asbestos cases unless plaintiffs can show evidence of health problems caused by asbestos. The ruling resulted in about 30,000 pending asbestos-related claims to be tossed out of county courts.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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