Earlier this year, one of our courts of appeal decided Taylor v. Elliott Turbomachinery Co., Inc. (2009) 171 Cal.App.4th 564, a product liability decision generally considered to be quite pro-defense. In Taylor, decedent was exposed to asbestos gaskets and
packing used with defendants' ship-board pumps and valves. The defendants did not supply the gaskets or packing, and moved for summary judgment on the ground that they couldn't be held responsible for injuries caused by products (the gaskets and packing) they neither manufactured or supplied. The Court of Appeal for the First District affirmed, holding that (1) because the pumps and valves were not themselves defective, the defendants had no duty to warn about the dangers of other products used with them; and (2) because the pumps and valves were incorporated into the overall propulsion system of the ship, there was no liability under the "component parts doctrine," sometimes known as the "bulk supplier doctrine." (E.g., Artiglio v. General Electric Co. (1998) 61 Cal.App.4th 830.)
Yesterday, the Court of Appeal for the Second District faced the same fact pattern in O'Neil v. Crane Co. (September 21, 2009) ___Cal.App.4th___ (B208225) and reached exactly the opposite conclusions: First, the component parts/bulk supplier doctrine applies to
Pumps and valves don't fill the bill. Secondly,
In other words, the fact that the defendants did not supply the asbestos-containing replacement parts did not shield them from liability. The product could be found defective, and required warning, because it was designed to be used with asbestos.
So now we have two conflicting decisions on these two questions. And under the Cal Supremes' decision in Auto Equity Sales, Inc. v. Superior Court of Santa Clara
County (1962) 57 Cal. 2d 450, every trial court in the state is free to choose between them.