Jessie Zeigler and Courtney Hunter Examine Recent Supreme Court Opinion in Maritime Cases

June 12, 2019
International Association of Defense Counsel

In an article published by the International Association of Defense Counsel (IADC), Bass, Berry & Sims attorneys Jessie Zeigler and Courtney Hunter examined the United States Supreme Court’s recent opinion on the Air & Liquid Systems Corp. v. Devries case and its potential impact on product manufacturers and future maritime related cases.

In this case, two Navy veterans allege they developed cancer as a result of exposure to asbestos contained in naval ship equipment and sued the equipment manufacturer. However, according to testimony, the manufacturer only supplied the equipment, and the asbestos was later added by the Navy. The Supreme Court was therefore asked to decide whether, “in the maritime tort context, a manufacturer has a duty to warn if the product requires the application of asbestos ‘in order to function as intended.’ Id. (emphasis added)”

The Supreme Court ruled that in the maritime tort context, manufacturers have a duty to warn “only when their product requires a part in order for the integrated product to function as intended.” As Jessie and Courtney point out, “The Court’s analysis will undoubtedly give rise to numerous attempts by plaintiffs’ counsel to argue that the Supreme Court has rejected the bare-metal defense, and thus state courts should as well. Defense counsel should emphasize that the Supreme Court’s holding only applies to maritime tort law and that the distinction between maritime and state tort law is an important one.”

The full article, “Recent Supreme Court Decision Rejects Bare-Metal Defense in Maritime Cases,” was published by the IADC on May 31, 2019.