Last year, Cal Biz Lit started tracking a series of cases on the "component parts doctrine." The doctrine essentially says this: A component manufacturer is subject to product liability only when the component itself has a defect that results in injury, or the manufacture plays a material role in integrating the component into a finished product whose defect causes injury.
The context has appeared in a series of cases where (a) a manufacturer sold steel valves and pumps to the United States Navy, which incorporated them into ships' engine and boiler rooms; (b) after the sale, the valves and pumps were equipped with asbestos gaskets and packing (or old gaskets and packing were removed and replaced) and there is no evidence that the replaced or replacement materials came from the valve or pump manufacturer; (c) the plaintiff, who worked in boiler or engine room, contracts an asbestos-related disease thirty years or more later, and sues the manufacturer. You can see previous posts on this subject here, here and here.
So far, in one citeable case, Taylor v. Elliott Turbomachinery Co., Inc. (2009) 171 Cal.App.4th 564, a court of appeal has held that the component parts doctrine means the plaintiff can't recover against the manufacturer. Plus, the plaintiff can't show a nexus between the manufacturer and the asbestos. In O'Neil v. Crane Co. (2009) , a different court of appeal reached the opposite conclusion. The Cal Supremes granted a petition for hearing so O'Neil is not citeable. In Merrill v. Leslie Controls, Inc. (2009), a different panel of the same court of appeal agreed with Taylor. The Supremes granted what we in California call a "grant and hold" on this one, meaning it isn't citeable either, and the Supremes won't do anything on it until they decide O'Neil.
And now, another one, also from the Second District Court of Appeal, agreeing with Taylor -- no liability for the supplier of component parts. Walton v. The William Powell Company (2010) ___Cal.App.4th___ (April 22, 2010, B208214). But we can expect a petition for hearing and a grant and hold on that one as well. Until the Supremes decide the question, the authority in California will be Taylor.