Horvitz & Levy advised trial counsel during this asbestos wrongful death trial, drafted a successful post-trial motion, and defended the favorable ruling on appeal.
Pat Jack’s family sued Ford Motor Co. and other defendants after he died of mesothelioma. They alleged that Jack used Ford’s asbestos-containing products while briefly working as a professional mechanic, and while repairing his own vehicles for much of his life. Between 1973 and 2001, Jack had significant exposure to asbestos working in a shipyard. Ford retained Horvitz & Levy to consult during the trial and to take the lead in post-trial and appellate proceedings.
At trial, a federal jury in Seattle applying Washington law returned a defense verdict on strict liability claims, but hung on negligence. After trial, the district court granted Ford judgment as a matter of law on negligence. On appeal, Plaintiffs focused on a single theory of negligence that survived the defense verdict—that Ford violated a “continuing” or “post-sale” duty to warn about asbestos. Plaintiffs argued that Ford had a duty to warn Jack about the general hazards of asbestos (and about other asbestos-containing products) so that he could take precautions when he was later exposed to asbestos at the shipyard (where he never encountered Ford products). Horvitz & Levy persuaded the Ninth Circuit that Plaintiffs could not prove causation as to this unique theory of negligence. There was no evidence of precautions Jack could or would have taken at the shipyard if he had been warned earlier by Ford.