Bass, Berry & Sims attorneys Jessie Zeigler and Sarah Miller authored an article for Today’s General Counsel outlining manufacturers’ liability for their products when they incorporate parts made by others.
Previous cases addressed the issue in the context of asbestos liability, but the March 2019 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the maritime case of Air & Liquid Sys. Corp. v. DeVries held that in some circumstances manufacturers have a duty to warn of the dangers of products that were later added to theirs and extended the rule beyond the asbestos context to apply to all manufacturers. However, court interpretations of the ruling have varied in the 40 cases that have cited Air & Liquid Sys. Corp. since its ruling, introducing uncertainty for manufacturers concerned about issues stemming from another producer’s parts.
Without more clarity from the courts, manufacturers could be forced to investigate what other products are being used with theirs by purchasers, assess the potential dangers of those products, and consider costly modifications or expansive warnings.
“In the end, companies will risk being sued for defects and products over which they had no control,” Jessie and Sarah said. “Manufacturers should stay on top of these issues and consider filing amicus briefs to oppose any attempts at expanding liability beyond the products a company manufactures.”
The full article “Liability for Products Manufactured by Other Companies,” was published as the cover story in the July 2021 issue of Today’s General Counsel and is also available online.
Bass, Berry & Sims represented Neles-Jamesbury and Metso Automation in significant precedent-setting litigation related to whether a product manufacturer has a duty to warn of the dangers of other manufacturers’ products that are foreseeably used together. Ultimately, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled in our clients’ favor, finding that a manufacturer only has a duty to warn of risks pertaining to its own product. Read more about that case here.