Md. court rules John Crane Inc. did not owe duty to warn wife who handled husband's asbestos-containing work clothes

By Tomas Kassahun | Nov 23, 2018

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Legal Newsline) – The Court of Special Appeals in Maryland has affirmed the Circuit Court for Baltimore City's ruling favoring a company accused of causing death due to mesothelioma.

The ruling filed on Nov. 2 determined that John Crane Inc. did not owe a legal duty to warn the decedent.

According to the opinion, Concetta Schatz passed away in 2015 from malignant mesothelioma and after her death, her estate and four surviving daughters filed a products liability action against John Crane Inc. (JCI), the court said.

“Appellants alleged that Mrs. Schatz’s husband, William Schatz, would handle JCI products containing asbestos while at work, and then bring his asbestos-covered clothing home for Mrs. Schatz to clean, thus exposing her to asbestos fibers,” the opinion stated.

According to the opinion, JCI argued that appellants had failed to prove that JCI owed a legal duty to warn Concetta Schatz.

The Court of Special Appeals upheld the trial court’s ruling, saying there is no set formula for determining the existence of a duty.

“Maryland courts consider the ‘foreseeability of harm’ and consider what the defendant knew or reasonably should have known at the time of exposure to harm,” the opinion stated. 

The higher court said Maryland courts "generally consider the relative weight to be given to 'foreseeability' as opposed to other factors, including: the relationship between the parties, the feasibility of a warning and the effectiveness of a warning."

"Although there may have been evidence tending to show that JCI reasonably should have known of the harm at the time of decedent’s exposure, the other factors weighed against establishing a duty to warn," the opinion stated.

Based on the facts presented in the case, the Court of Special Appeals said it "would not have been feasible" for JCI to directly warn Concetta Schatz because JCI had no relationship with her.

"A duty does not exist simply because JCI could have warned an intermediary (decedent's husband) who supposedly would have warned the decedent," the higher court said.

The court added that appellants failed to present evidence at trial showing how a warning would have been effective, "even if it would have been permissible for JCI to warn the husband."

Want to get notified whenever we write about Maryland Court of Appeals ?

Sign-up Next time we write about Maryland Court of Appeals, we'll email you a link to the story. You may edit your settings or unsubscribe at any time.

Organizations in this Story

Maryland Court of Appeals

More News

The Record Network