The Tennessee Supreme Court recently held that product liability defendants “cannot be held liable for injuries resulting from products they did not make, distribute, or sell.” In Coffman v. Armstrong International, Inc., No. E2017-01985-SC-R11-CV (Tenn. Jan. 4, 2021), plaintiff was the wife of a deceased employee of a chemical plant. The husband died after being diagnosed with mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure at work.
Plaintiff brought this products liability claim against numerous defendants, including several industrial equipment manufacturers who made and sold equipment used by the deceased husband at his job. Plaintiff claimed that while the equipment made by these defendants did not contain asbestos, the defendants knew that the equipment would have to be integrated with asbestos-containing parts in order to be repaired and maintained. Plaintiff argued that defendants were liable under the Tennessee Products Liability Act (TPLA) because “their products were unreasonably dangerous and because the Equipment Defendants failed to adequately warn users of potential asbestos exposure resulting from the post-sale integration of asbestos-containing materials manufactured and sold by others,” and that defendants “were liable under a duty-to-warn theory because it was foreseeable, and even intended, that their equipment be repaired and maintained with asbestos-containing materials.”